A Billingham man who used his job as a fishing tackle rep to sell counterfeit DVDs and music discs was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court on Thursday 16 October 2014.
48 year old John Swinhoe of Lanchester Avenue in Billingham pleaded guilty to 13 offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 on 16 June 2014.
However, he denied the commercial aspect of his enterprise so a Newton Hearing was held to determine this point.
On 16 October he was handed a 12 month sentence for each of the seven Trade Mark Offences and six months for each of the six Copyright Design and Patent offences, all to run concurrently and suspended for two years.
Mr Swinhoe was also ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work, pay a victim surcharge of £100 as well as £1000 towards prosecution costs. He will also observe a curfew between 8am and 6pm for the next four months.
Stockton Council’s Trading Standards and Licensing Service began an investigation in June 2012 after receiving intelligence that Mr Swinhoe was dealing in illicit goods.
During a test purchase at a North Yorkshire fishery and tackle shop a Trading Standards and Licensing officer bought four DVD films which were still on general release at the cinema. Mr Swinhoe also offered to ‘chip’ an Xbox 360 to allow the console to play copied games.
Officers executed a warrant at Mr Swinhoe’s home address in December 2012 and found a bedroom kitted out as a sophisticated counterfeiting workshop.
Thousands of copied films, CDs and computer games used as master copies were seized from the property along with computers, printers and storage devices.
Analysis of the computers and hardware confirmed that they had been adapted to contravene copyright legislation and the film discs, computer games and CDs were all found to be counterfeit.
Yesterday the Recorder Bourne Arton said that he found Mr Swinhoe to be a thoroughly dishonest individual and an unconvincing witness. His judgement was that he was carrying out a commercial venture and Mr Swinhoe was sentenced on that basis. He noted his guilty plea but gave no credit for it as he had he had not accepted the obvious evidence as to the commercial nature of the enterprise.
In mitigation Mr Swinhoe’s defence said he mainly copied films and Xbox games for family and friends and claimed to only supply one to three discs per week to others and made very little in profit. He claimed that only the copies for family and friends had printed labels and boxes.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, said: “There is no doubt that this was a large scale sophisticated operation trading under the guise of a legitimate occupation. I welcome the sentence which should act as a deterrent to others who are tempted to make money in this way.
“The local economy suffers as a result of such an illegal operation and legitimate businesses can be affected by reduced profits resulting in lower wages, lost jobs and opportunities for future growth.”
To report suspected counterfeit goods, call Stockton Council's Trading Standards Team on 01642 526560.