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ACS:Law's Andrew Crossley Pleads Poverty: Fine Reduced From £200,000 to £1,000

Andrew Crossley, former head of failed law firm ACS Law has avoided a bumper fine from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) - by pleading poverty.

Crossley's one-man-band was one of a number of morally questionable law firms carrying out 'speculative invoicing' - sending out threatening letters accusing the recipient of sharing copyrighted content on peer-to-peer networks.

The 'evidence' for these accusations was often no more than an IP address, and the company relied on victims choosing to pay a £500 fee rather than getting involved in a costly legal battle.

The tactics came under fire from consumer protection groups, and more mainstream clients dried up, forcing Crossley to look to a new source of income to fund his lavish lifestyle: porn.

When an attack by anti-copyright protesters took down the company's website, a mistake by system administrators when restoring it leaked the company's entire e-mail database - revealing the sheer extent of innocent parties targeted by Crossley's campaign of copyright cash-seeking.

It also revealed information about Crossley's personal life - including his personal crisis of whether to add a Ferarri to his garage next to a recently-purchased Bentley.

After the e-mails leaked, a spreadsheet was discovered containing the personal details of some 10,000 people targeted by the company - generating a raft of complaints to the ICO. In its finding today, ICO has confirmed that Crossley is personally guilty - by virtue of his status as a sole trader - of a failure to adhere to data protection guidelines.

The fine was supposed to be set at £200,000 - a hefty penalty, but one a reasonable distance away from the £500,000 maximum the ICO is allowed to levy. Following a plea of poverty, however, the fine has been reduced to a mere £1,000 - just half a percent of its original figure.

"A monetary penalty of £200,000 would have been imposed, given the severity of the breach," Information Commissioner Christopher Graham confirmed - but claimed that the folding of the ACS Law business had left Crossley unable to pay such a fine, following a plea of 'limited means'.