‘Nothing illegal about reselling tickets’, jury at fraud trial told

A jury trying two men accused of fraudulently trading tens of thousands of tickets for events such as Ed Sheeran concerts and the Harry Potter & the Cursed Child play has been told: “There is nothing illegal about reselling tickets”.

Peter Hunter and David Smith – who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ – used multiple identities and computer bots to buy £4m-worth of tickets, selling them on secondary ticketing websites such as Viagogo for £10.8m, Leeds crown court has heard.

They deny three counts of fraud over the alleged trades and one count of possessing articles used for fraud.

Ben Douglas-Jones QC, defending Hunter, said: “Some people may think the secondary ticket websites like Seatwave, StubHub, GetMeIn and Viagogo and sellers are parasitic.

“Others may think the market functions because it puts people who own a commodity that they are willing to sell together with others who wish to purchase it at an agreed price.”

The barrister continued: “Parliament has had the opportunity to remove the secondary ticket market. It has not done that. No one has ever banned it.”

The barrister said that, except for some very specific exceptions, “there is nothing illegal about reselling tickets”.

When the trial started last week, the jury was taken through a range of transactions for tickets for acts including Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Liam Gallagher.

Mr Douglas-Jones told the jury that just because Hunter and Smith breached the terms and conditions of the sites from which they bought the tickets, it did not mean they were guilty of a criminal offence.

He said: “We do not shy away from the fact that more tickets were bought than allowed for by the Ts and Cs [terms and conditions]. Ultimately, the question is: were they acting dishonestly and fraudulently?”

“We live in a society where things are bought and sold,” he added. “They are only sold at a price which people are willing to pay for them.”

He also stressed that not all resold ticket are traded at a profit, giving the example of Bros tickets at the O2, in London, some of which he said sold for £9 despite a £75 face value.

Mr Douglas-Jones said: “Ed Sheeran might be upset because he wants his tickets sold to ‘true fans’, whatever true fans means. Are barristers or lorry drivers or policemen not true fans just because they might work hundreds of miles away from home or have varying shift patterns and might not know where they are going to be in 12 months’ time when tickets go on sale?”