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Demon founder pleads guilty to email hacking

Suspended sentence. Appeal planned

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Updated Cliff Stanford, founder of Demon Internet and Redbus, has pleaded guilty to email interception charges. Stanford along with co-defendant George Liddell were accused of conspiring to intercept emails sent to Redbus chairman John Porter (son of Dame Shirley Porter, the disgraced former Conservative leader of Westminster council) during a boardroom battle at the London-based hosting firm.

Both pleaded guilty on Tuesday to interception of communications contrary to the RIPA Act 2000 at a hearing before Judge Geoffrey Rivlin at London's Southwark Crown Court. The plea forestalled a trial initially expected to last two weeks. The Crown dropped earlier blackmail charges against the pair.

Judge Rivlin today sentenced Stanford to six months imprisonment suspended for two years. He was also fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,000 prosecution costs. Liddell was also sentenced to six months suspended for two years.

Appeal planned

Lawyers for Stanford said he would appeal Judge Rivlin's intreptation of the law in the case.

A statement issued on behalf of Stanford by his solicitors, Peters & Peters, said: "Mr Stanford pleaded guilty to this offence following what we regard as an erroneous interpretation of a very complex new statute. The Judge’s ruling gave Mr Stanford no option other than to change his plea to one of guilty."

"We will be vigorously pursuing an appeal with a view to establishing Mr Stanford’s innocence," the statement added.

Stanford co-founded Redbus Interhouse in 1999 but resigned in 2002, along with two other directors, following a boardroom row with Porter, Redbus Interhouse's then chairman. Two subsequent attempts by Stanford to oust the board failed, and he sold his stake in the company last year.

Stanford is a high-profile figure on the UK internet scene. In 1998 he sold Demon Internet to Thus for £33m. He then established investment outfit the Redbus Group, which set up Redbus Interhouse and a number of other businesses. ®

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