Counterfeit CD pirate spared jail after running bogus operation from his Hartlepool home

Working from home netted a husband thousands of pounds from counterfeit music CDs and now he is facing seizure of £70,500, a court was told.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 3:04 pm
Teesside Crown Court, Middlesbrough. Picture by FRANK REID

Kevin Winspear, 56, was officially the carer for his sick wife but an anonymous letter tipped-off Hartlepool Trading Standards that he was operating a website selling music compilation CDs, DVDs, computer programmes, mobile phone apps and e-Books

Hartlepool Borough Council passed on the information to the British Phonographic Industry representing the rights of most of the UK record labels, and an investigator began making test purchases using an undercover address.

They included counterfeit Ministry of Sound and That's What I Call Music counterfeit compilation albums, prosecutor Richard Bennett told Teesside Crown Court.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Winspear's Hartlepool home was raided on May 31, 2018 by trading standards, the BPI and officers from Cleveland Police and they seized a number of computers, mobile phones and electronic storage devices and £840 in cash.

A total of 241,646 audio files which had been downloaded from pirate websites were found on the seized equipment, said Mr Bennett.

They would have cost £239,230 if they had been purchased legitimately, and many of the musical files were accompanied by digital inlay sleeves and top face labels for CDs.

There had been 7,022 files for Now That's What I call Music, and a similar filter for Ministry of Sound produced a listing for 4997 files.

The trade had used several websites operating from September 15, 2010 until May 29, 2018 just three days before the raid.

An email from June 2011 showed that material available had been copied from shop DVDs and was rated as "good watchable quality".

Despite Winspear's earlier denials there was plenty of forensic evidence to show that he had owned and operated the equipment at the relevant time.

Mr Bennett said that as an indication of the way that the company was being run an email referred to a subscription service for weekly albums.

Between February 2012 and June 2018 a total of £81,775 was withdrawn from bank accounts used for sales and a total of £24,445 was paid into a joint account belonging to Kevin and Jill Winspear.

Mr Bennett said: "The prosecution and defence have agreed a figure for the criminal property converted, this amounts to £70,500.”

Stephen Constantine, defending, said that they accepted that the offences crossed the custodial threshold but it was claimed that there were exceptional circumstances to allow it to be suspended because of the ill health of Winspear's wife and his elderly mother.

Judge Deborah Sherwin said: “I make it clear that were it not for his wife's medical condition I would be sentencing him to an immediate prison sentence."

She told Winspear: "You had been selling counterfeit goods for a period of six years prior to the investigation.

"That clearly is a long period of time and I make it clear that if it had not been for your wife's position and your mother's position you would be starting an immediate prison sentence today."

Winspear of Formby Close, Hartlepool, was sentenced to two years jail suspended for two years with 80 hours unpaid work after admitting to selling goods with a sign likely to be mistaken for a trade mark, two offences of advertising them, and converting criminal property.

He faces a Proceeds of Crime action to be decided between the prosecution and defence, in place of the usual agreed dates for stages of hearings.