Last week we were contacted by a lady called Julie, who has been having a few problems with TV Licensing.
Julie told us how she was visited by a female TV Licensing goon on 9th December 2013. The goon informed her that the TV licence, which had always been paid by Direct Debit, had lapsed and consequently her property was unlicensed.
Julie was horrified to end up in such a situation, particularly as her licence payments had always been kept up to date. She explained to the goon that she was sure she was correctly licensed and unwittingly signed the TVL178 Record of Interview (or self-incrimination) form under the misapprehension it was just to confirm the goon had visited. Julie was not in the right frame of mind to argue or ask questions of the goon, as her father was very ill at the time and it was weighing heavily on her mind.
A few days later Julie contacted the bank and discovered that the Direct Debit had been cancelled by mistake. Keen to make amends, she immediately set up a new monthly Direct Debit with TV Licensing and thought that would be the end of the matter.
Skip forward six months and in early May 2014 Julie received a summons for the offence of receiving TV programmes without a valid licence on 9th December 2013. With the summons was a copy of the completed TVL178 form, which incorrectly stated that the goon visited on 9th February 2014. This discrepancy spurred Julie into making contact with us, in the hope we'd be able to tell her that such a procedural oversight automatically rendered the prosecution invalid. Sadly it doesn't, so we couldn't.
We advised Julie to contact TV Licensing's prosecution team directly, highlight the inconsistencies on the TVL178 form and indicate her willingness to challenge it in court.
Not for the first time, the threat of having the inadequacies of their seedy little operation exposed in court persuaded TV Licensing to drop the case.
In terms of their ability as a prosecuting authority, TV Licensing's incompetence is second only to that of the CPS. Their paperwork is often littered with errors, which immediately draws into question the accuracy of anything they tender as evidence.
Anyone accused of TV licence evasion should study TV Licensing's paperwork closely and challenge any inconsistencies that arise. As in this case, TV Licensing would often rather withdraw a prosecution than risk the embarrassment of being discredited in court.