Feeds

Redbus and Demon founder denied RIPA appeal

Sound of strategy backfiring

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Internet pioneer Cliff Stanford has been denied the right to appeal against his conviction for unlawfully intercepting emails at his former company, Redbus Interhouse. Last year Stanford pleaded guilty, but argued that the trial judge had misunderstood the law.

Stanford made his name when he founded the ISP Demon Internet in 1992. He sold it to Scottish Telecom six years later for £66 million, reportedly making around £30 million. The following year, in 1999, he co-founded Redbus Interhouse which offers co-location and data centre facilities. Stanford resigned from the company in 2002 after a disagreement with the company's then chairman, John Porter.

In October 2003, allegations surfaced that Stanford had been involved in the interception of emails between Porter and Porter's mother, Dame Shirley Porter, the former leader of Westminster council.

Stanford, together with another man, George Nelson Liddell, were charged with offences under the Computer Misuse Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) of 2000. The case was due to come to trial in September 2005, but both men pleaded guilty at the last minute.

At the time, Stanford's solicitors, Peters & Peters, issued a statement.

"Mr Stanford pleaded guilty to this offence following what we regard as an erroneous interpretation of a very complex new statute," it read. "The Judge’s ruling gave Mr Stanford no option other than to change his plea to one of guilty."

The strategy was to establish his innocence on appeal. That strategy backfired yesterday.

At trial, Stanford had sought to rely on a section of RIPA that gives a defence to a person who intercepts “a communication in the course of its transmission by means of a private telecommunication system” if either: (a) he is a person with a right to control the operation or the use of the system; or (b) he has the express or implied consent of such a person to make the interception.

Stanford said he had gained access to the emails through the actions of a company employee. That employee, according to Stanford, had been given administrator access to usernames and passwords on the email server. He was therefore lawfully authorised, and through this authorisation was a “person with a right to control the operation or the use of the system”.

But the trial judge, Geoffrey Rivlin QC, disagreed. He reasoned that “right to control” did not simply mean that someone had a right to access or operate the system, but was more specific, requiring a right to authorise or forbid that operation.

This ruling effectively quashed Stanford’s defence argument – so Stanford pleaded guilty and pinned his hopes on the appeal process.

In his application to appeal, Stanford's lawyers argued that Judge Rivlin was in error. His interpretation made a criminal out of an employee who had been empowered to operate and use the system without any restrictions, they said.

Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal yesterday upheld Judge Rivlin’s view. It found that, in this context, the right of control was wider than a simple right to operate or access the system and to find otherwise would undermine the object of the provision, which was to protect privacy.

Accordingly, Stanford's application to appeal was refused.

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

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.