A prosecution brought against a pub showing live Premier League football on TV by using an Albanian satellite system has been ruled 'void' by the High Court with legal experts claiming other similar rulings may now be in doubt.
Andrew and Christine Crawford, licensees at the Railway Inn at Helsby in Cheshire, faced prosecution proceedings brought by Media Protection Services (MPS) on behalf of the Premier League for using a foreign decoder to show live matches in their pub.
However last year Chester Magistrates Court dismissed the proceedings because MPS had wrongly acted as though they were solicitors.
On Friday Lord Justice Stanley Burnton at the High Court upheld that decision calling the MPS prosecution 'incompetent' and declaring the proceedings were 'void' and 'should be dismissed'.
"They are honest, decent and hard working licensees," Paul Dixon of Molesworths Bright Clegg, who acted as the Crawford's solicitor, said of the couple. Dixon also suggested other prosecutions made by MPS on behalf of the Premier League could now be ruled void.
"They can now focus on what they do best - serving their local community. This decision of the High Court will have implications for all prosecutions brought by MPS between 2005 and 2011."
It is thought unless the Premier League appeal the ruling, past prosecutions made by the MPS could now be the subject of applications for them to also be declared void.
Speaking to BigHospitality's sister publication the Publican's Morning Advertiser , legal expert Peter Coulson said: "Does that mean that all the actions taken by MPS between 2005 and 2011 are void, and that they will have to pay back the damages and costs? I would say that if the judge has declared them void, then on an application they may well have to."
Although it is not yet known how many prosecutions the ruling may impact, licensing experts have warned publicans the development does not change the legal position of pubs and bars trying to show live football using foreign satellite systems .
Following the ruling, a statement from the Premier League said the judgement was based on a 'legal technicality'.
"We have copyright protected works in our broadcasts. Sky and ESPN are the only authorised broadcasters of live Premier League matches in the UK. Publicans should be aware that legal action will be taken against those who use unauthorised systems."