THE jailing of a Stourbridge headteacher who ran an illegal online streaming business, ripping off the likes of Sky and BT, has left a school community “deeply shocked”.

Paul Merrell, school lead at Elmfield Rudolph Steiner School in Oldswinford, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for advertising and selling illegal IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) services.

Sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on February 2, the 42-year-old from Sutton Coldfield was also issued with a confiscation order seeking the recovery of £91,243.

The conviction followed a joint investigation by FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards team.

Mr Merrell derived a substantial income from illegally providing access to subscription-only streams through his business under the banner of Media Maverick between 2017 and 2021.

He sourced customers online who, for a fee, were provided with online access enabling them to stream premium TV content, including Premier League matches, without permission from legitimate providers such as BT Sport (now TNT Sports) and Sky TV.

The investigation also revealed Mr Merrell’s involvement as a reseller for illegal streaming business Flawless - a pivotal factor in one of the most prolific prosecutions of its kind, which saw five people jailed last May with sentences totalling 30 years.

Tony Quigley, head of Trading Standards at Birmingham City Council, said after Merrell’s sentencing: “Anyone who thinks they can get away with illegal streaming of subscription channels or pay-per-view events should take heed.”

The conviction of Mr Merrell, who was deputy head at a school in the Coventry area before joining Elmfield, has rocked the community in Stourbridge.

Elmfield trustee Roger Pauli said on behalf of the Love Lane school: “The school community is deeply shocked at discovering Mr Merrell’s activities prior to joining the school.

“Mr Merrell brought a great deal to the school and whilst it is true to say that he was instrumental in steering us through difficult times, the school’s finances are secure and we will be continuing to provide our unique model of education well into the future.”