Jail for recluse whose illegal streaming website cost film industry '£12m'

Credit: Rollingnews

A social recluse who ran an internet piracy scam from his bedroom, estimated to have cost the movie industry £12m, has lost an appeal against his four-year sentence.

Rejecting Paul Mahoney's challenge, Northern Ireland's most senior judge said he had persistently offended with complete disregard for his wrongdoing.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan added: "On any view this was a case of very significant harm."

Mahoney, 30, from Carnhill in Derry, made nearly £300,000 through advertising revenue generated from illegal websites offering access to the latest films and televisions shows.

Viewers streamed new movies free of charge while they were still on their cinema run - or even before they went on general release.

At one point more than 12,000 films were made available on a site he operated.

Partially blind and described as a withdrawn individual with marked communication difficulties, Mahoney claimed his motive in setting up the website was not making money but just for something to do.

During a six-year period the racket was run he claimed more than £12,000 in state benefits.

Police also found £82,400 in cash hidden at the home he shared with his parents.

Mahoney admitted a number of offences last year, including conspiracy to defraud, and acquiring and concealing criminal property. At that stage the prosecution claimed, based on viewing figures, that the scam had put up to £120m worth of revenue at risk.

The actual loss to the industry was estimated in the region of £12m.

Defence lawyers went to the Court of Appeal in a bid to secure a reduction in the four-year term imposed - split between half in custody and half on licence.

But Sir Declan held today that it was a case of high culpability where Mahoney continued his illegal operation after being served with cease and desist notice."

The website was clearly professionally structured and he retained staff to assist him with this," the judge said.

"He was the driving force behind the criminal behaviour. Although the precise financial sums could not be determined, the Lord Chief Justice accepted that the losses ran into millions of pounds.

Ruling that Mahoney's medical and psychological issues were properly recognised as mitigating factors, Sir Declan added that he may have received a lesser sentence if he had co-operated at interview and pleaded not guilty on arraignment.

He confirmed: "For the reasons given the appeal is dismissed."