Shop owner pleads guilty

Businessman fined for modifying set top boxes

A struggling businessman pleaded guilty to modifying and selling on digital boxes today.

James Howard of Drove Road, Biggleswade was arrested at the end of last month for four counts of modifying and selling Virgin Media set top boxes, Bedford Magistrates Court heard.

Mr Howard, 49, who owns Electro Exhange in Shortmead Street, Biggleswade was fined 2,000 to compensate Virgin Media for its loss of earnings.

And he was given a curfew order between 7pm and 9am every day for three months.

He will also be electronically tagged to ensure he doesn't break the conditions.

The offences were carried out between July last year and March this year and upon arrest Mr Howard also admitted to another 30 similar offences during that time.

The court heard that Mr Howard was struggling to keep his business afloat and was in debts of more than 35,000, and had also maxed four different credit cards.

Defending Andy Brumhill said: "Mr Howard is the owner of a small one man outfit and is struggling heavily.

"He cannot afford to employ anyone at his business and is at the shop premises every day even when it is not open to complete paperwork."

Chairman of the bench John Kneeshaw said: "We have taken into account the fact that you pleaded guilty at an early date and that you co-operated with police.

"We will not be imposing cost fees due to your financial situation and we think compensation to Virgin Media needs to take priority."

For the full story see the Friday, April 18 edition of the Biggleswade Chronicle.