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Sheffield student avoids conviction for piracy

Richard O'Dwyer Photo: Press Association

A Sheffield student who ran a website where users could stream pirated films has "avoided a conviction" after paying £20,000 to US authorities, his lawyer has said.

Sheffield Hallam student Richard O'Dwyer ran the TVShack website hosting links to pirated films and TV programmes. But after a court hearing in New York, the 24-year-old avoided extradition and conviction by signing a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

As a result he paid £20,000 to the authorities, representing the profits he made from TVShack between December 2007 and November 2009.

The money will be distributed among victims whose copyrights were infringed by TVShack.

Mr O'Dwyer's lawyer, Ben Cooper, said it was "a first" in extradition cases.

Mr Cooper said:

Richard O'Dwyer is very happy to put this behind him. He has avoided extradition and will avoid a conviction.

The solution reached is pragmatic and allows Richard to finish his final year at university and get on with his studies at a crucial time in his life. We are grateful that the US recognised it was in everyone's interests to find a practical solution.

So far as we know this is a first in extradition cases - and a sensible solution for UK defendants faced with an ever-growing extra-territorial reach of US prosecutions.

I expect this mechanism will be used by UK defendants in future US extradition cases now the precedent has been established and at least until the Government introduces the promised forum amendment into the Extradition Act 2003.

– Ben Cooper

Under the agreement, Mr O'Dwyer must also not break any US laws, "associate only with law abiding people" and work regularly in a lawful occupation.

Earlier this year Home Secretary Theresa May approved Mr O'Dwyer's extradition, which he appealed. On November 28 a deal was struck at the High Court in London to avoid him being extradited and led to him signing the three-page deferred prosecution agreement.