Teenager escapes jail for PayPal hack

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The fourth British man to appear in court over the 2010 hack of PayPal has escaped jail, as he was only 16 at the time of the offence.

The attacks, dubbed Operation Payback, were carried out in support of Wikileaks after PayPal refused to process payments to the whistle-blowing site. MasterCard and Visa were also hit by the DDoS attacks.

Last month, Christopher Weatherhead and Ashley Rhodes were jailed for their part in the offences, while Peter Gibson was given a suspended sentence.

But because Jake Birchall, who used the online name 'Fennic', was under 18 when the attacks were carried out, he's got off comparatively lightly. The judge also said he was taking into account  psychiatric and pre-sentencing reports which described him as 'profoundly isolated'.

As a result, after admitting conspiring to impair the operation of computers between 1 August 2010 and 22 January 2011, he's been given an eight month youth rehabilitation order and 60 hours of community service, or unpaid work.

According to the Guardian, though, judge Peter Testar said he was forced to issue a non-custodial sentence because of Birchall's age, saying that otherwise he'd have had a 'substantial' custodial sentence. He was said to have been a senior figure within AnonOps, and owned two servers used by the group.

"The fact of the matter is although he had and has a disadvantage in life he did actually play an important role," said the judge.

"He did play a prominent and important part in this and I think he has got to learn to get out of bed in a morning and do unpaid work."