German-based monitoring company Maverick Eye said that it had teamed up with London-based Hatton & Berkeley and other key players to target file-sharers with cash settlement demands.
Due to the complexity of the setup, some likened the project to a “smoke and mirrors” operation.
“Hatton and Berkeley stands alongside our colleagues in an international operation that has so far yielded drastic reductions in streaming, torrenting and illegal downloads across Europe,” a company spokesperson said at the time.
Common to all of Hatton and Berkeley’s letters to ISP subscribers are threats that if they don’t pay, ultimately they will end up in court. To date, that has never happened, but interestingly Hatton and Berkeley’s Robert Croucher is now in some legal trouble of his own.
According to a Court News report (subscription), 35-year-old Croucher has been appearing in court this week following allegations of a serious assault.
It all began outside the exclusive members-only Raffles club in Chelsea, London, which is frequented by the rich and famous. It is the only nightclub the Queen has ever attended.
(This paragraph has been amended to clarify that Croucher was outside the club, he did not attend)
It’s understood that Croucher tried to get into an Uber car outside the venue but things quickly got out of hand.
According to driver Mohammad Hussain, a woman was the first to get into his vehicle. Croucher is said to have thrown his bag into the car, something which provoked an argument between the pair. Croucher then slammed the door.
“I got out to open the door, and then the gentlemen took the keys from through the window,” Hussain told Hammersmith Magistrates’ court. “He then slapped me.”
Croucher admits hitting Mr Hussain but according to the Uber driver, things got much worse from there.
“I was begging for my keys and he suddenly pushed me on the pavement,” Hussain told the Court.
“He has just kicked me in several parts of my body and head. My head was very swollen, I went to hospital where I stayed for four hours. I went to my GP a few days later and got prescribed antibiotics, it was severe pain.”
Croucher, who gave his address as Hawthorn Road, Hornsey, north London, admits assault but denies kicking Mr Hussain.
This is the third time in as many months Croucher has made the news.
In the House of Lords during July, Lord Lucas advised recipients of threatening letters from Croucher’s Hatton & Berkeley to thrown them away.
“I really urge them to put [their correspondence] in the bin. The current scammers aren’t pursuing anyone [in court] they’re just after threats, and extortion, and shaking people down,” Lord Lucas said.
Then in August, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority published details of its investigation into claims on Croucher’s personal website that one of his projects had created 10,000 jobs.
The ASA concluded that the claims were misleading and ordered the advertising not to appear again in its current form. Despite the ruling, the claim is still present on the site’s main page.
Update: Croucher has been jailed for 20 weeks.
“This will destroy my life, I am the director of a company, and everyone would lose their jobs,” he told the Court as he was sentenced.
Update 2:The Raffles club has sent TorrentFreak the following statement:
Further to the recent news article the club wishes to issue a statement to clarify that Mr Croucher was refused entry to the club on the evening in question; Mr Croucher is not a member of the club, nor was he being accompanied by a member.
Furthermore Mr Croucher was heavily intoxicated when he approached the club and became aggressive and abusive towards our staff upon refusal.
The club takes the upholding of the key licensing objectives very seriously and would like to praise the members of our security staff involved for their swift and decisive action. Their actions prevented what could have amounted to a far more serious injury to a member of the public just trying to do his job and to Mr Croucher’s arrest and subsequent conviction.
Technology also played a key role as the body cameras worn and operated by our security staff incorporate audio recording, which coupled with our CCTV provided the club with necessary means to assist the police in full and to a satisfactory end.