In the news: Peter Leon Quinn

July 9, 2004

Vice-chancellors are unlikely to be great fans of Peter Leon Quinn, but they must surely admire him for his tenacity.

Mr Quinn was exposed on the front page of The Guardian this week for selling forged degree certificates at £165 a shot. But this was by no means his first outing at the hands of the British Fourth Estate.

In 1997, The Times Higher brought Mr Quinn's activities to the world's attention. Although inflation has hit the price of his forgeries - just Pounds 70 back then - the story is much the same.

From his website, Peter Quinn offers those "who have never had a chance at a university or college education a choice of A-level certificates and degree certificates from any institution".

In July 1999, he hit the pages of the Daily Mail and the following month was exposed again as a "cyber forger" by the Sunday Mirror . But the press attention made little difference.

It is difficult to pin him down to any crime. He was arrested in December 1998 and his computers were seized, but no charges were brought. Using a forged degree certificate to obtain a job - or any "pecuniary advantage" - is illegal, but supplying the certificate is not.

In September 1999, The Times Higher reported an apparent breakthrough. A consortium of 146 universities obtained a High Court injunction preventing Mr Quinn from selling fake degrees. But in December 2001, we reported that, despite the injunction, he remained in business. This was picked up by The Guardian in January 2002 and again this week.

Little is known about Mr Quinn: he is based in Liverpool and in 1997 set up a website in support of Louise Woodward, the British nanny convicted of murdering a baby in her care in the US. His website reveals he is "a collector of Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood hats from cafes around the world" - and invites customers to send him hats in lieu of payment.

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