A woman has successfully had her conviction for TV licence evasion overturned at Burton Magistrates Court.
Writing in yesterday's Burton Herald, Rikki Thursfield explains how she was wrongly branded a criminal by TV Licensing when they prosecuted her for an offence she couldn't have committed:
IMAGINE waking up one morning and finding out that you have become a criminal and having no idea why. How would you feel?
My name is Rikki, I am a law-abiding citizen and mother of two small children. My partner and I are hardworking and we want to provide our children with a good upbringing, one which instills right and wrong, giving them a good platform in life.
One day I became a criminal and had absolutely no idea of how this had happened to me.
I woke up one morning and received a few telephone calls from family and friends to say that my name was featured in the court pages of the Herald for TV Licence evasion.
I'd been taken to court in my absence and a judgement had been made against me, resulting in fines, costs and worst of all, a 'criminal record'!
This alleged offence had occurred because in May this year I relinquished a property.
As part of the process, I informed all the necessary organisations, to include South Staffs Water, electricity and gas suppliers and TV Licensing.
Later, I moved into my partner's address, which was already covered by a TV licence. At the date of moving, no monies were owed to TV Licensing whatsoever and as far as I was concerned, I had fulfilled all of my duties and responsibilities prior to leaving the address.
To find out later that I had become a 'criminal' without actually committing a 'criminal act' was not only alarming, but extremely distressing, especially given that my name had come into disrepute for most of my hometown to read.
Being considered a criminal is a serious mark against anyone's name, not something that I was prepared to take lightly.
Due to this, I set about trying to find out how to reverse what had happened and clear my name. I did some research and also contacted Burton Magistrates Court to see what I could do about my predicament.
On Tuesday, September 25, I attended Burton Magistrates Court at my own expense and signed what is known as a 'Statutory Declaration'.
This is a document whereby you swear on oath in front of a magistrate that you have no knowledge and are not guilty of the alleged offence.
TV Licensing were also present at court. All fines and costs were dismissed and I no longer have a 'criminal record'.
According to Burton Magistrates Court what had happened to me is a recurring problem.
However, I feel some people may be paying these fines, costs and accepting a 'criminal record', through fear, or because they don't know how to deal with the situation.
I hope by bringing this to the attention of others, that people will defend themselves in cases such as mine. Also, I want to express how I think it is wrong for TV Licence evasion to carry such a harsh penalty as a 'criminal record', even if a person has truly evaded the TV Licence fee.
Theft of a few hundred pounds and criminal damage for example can carry a fixed penalty notice by the police to the sum of £80 and yet, people are being criminalised for what amounts to a very minor infringement of our laws, one that I feel needs to be addressed.
Rikki Thursfield, via email.