Monday 18 December 2023
Police siren flashing blue lights

A man who sold 81 Android TV boxes also known as 'firesticks' or ‘dodgy boxes’ has been given an 18-month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Noel Robinson, 50, pleaded guilty to possessing the boxes, which contain protection-defeating software, in his home at Le Fanu Road, Ballyfermot, on 14 February 2019.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard that these Android devices unencrypt the Sky network to allow the user get Sky on their television for free.

Today Judge Orla Crowe accepted that Robinson had an unblemished record previously and had been a law-abiding man.

She further accepted that he had no trappings of wealth and although he had an addiction to alcohol at the time, he has not drank since February 2020.

The judge said Robinson had no previous convictions and has not come to garda attention since.

She said he had a lot of support and there were a lot of people relying on him.

Judge Crowe imposed an 18-month prison sentence which she suspended in full for three years on strict conditions.

Garda Charles McPartland told Patrick Jackson BL, prosecuting, at the sentence hearing, that the boxes can circumvent the subscription that Sky clients would usually have to pay of €126 per month.

The prosecution claimed the offence left Sky Broadcasting at a potential loss of €102,060, based on 81 potential customers who might have otherwise brought Sky subscriptions.

The court heard that in January 2019, a member of Sky’s anti-piracy investigation team identified a profile on selling Android TV boxes to provide free subscription TV.

The ad was placed under the name 'Robco' but when the investigator phoned, the seller gave his name as Noel and provided his own address.

The Sky investigator then arrived at Robinson’s house and bought an Android box for €150.

Gardaí got a warrant to search the house on 14 February and Robinson cooperated fully and made full admissions.

Gda McPartland agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending, that the quality of the ‘firesticks’ or ‘dodgy boxes’ is often poor.

"They buy these sticks and put them in the back of their telly. But very often, those people would simply not be able to afford a Sky subscription," counsel said.

The court heard that gardaí examined Robinson’s PayPal account over two years and saw it contained $50,000.

However, Gda McPartland agreed that the profit made by Robinson amounted to €13,625 which was withdrawn from his AIB account.

Some of this €13,000 was for legitimate items he was selling, including remote controls, and the rest was "squandered on drink", the court heard.

The prosecuting garda said there was "a certain level of naivety" in that Robinson gave his own name and address to buyers on Adverts.

"He had a totally unblemished record and led a wholesome and law-abiding life before this," said Mr Spencer, giving the court a bundle of letters from friends and family testifying to Robinson’s good character.

Counsel said Robinson has two adult sons with autism and a third son who works as a successful chef and attributes his success to his father’s support.

The court heard that Robinson ensures a daily consistent routine for his two sons with autism and has been a pillar of support for them in times of stress.

Mr Spencer said that his client has no trappings of wealth and spent any profit he made from the dodgy boxes on drink.

However, he said this case spurred Robinson to change his ways and he hasn’t had "a drop of drink" since February 2020.

Robinson has a potted but consistent work history including working in sewers, picture framing and warehousing, the court heard.

Original announcement from RTE can be found here: