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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Saturday, 22 August 2015

TV Licence Evasion Penalties: The Great North-South Divide

TV licence evaders in England and Wales are fined twice as much as those in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

A TV licence is required for any property where equipment is used to receive TV programmes at the same time as they are broadcast to other members of the public. A colour TV licence currently costs £145.50.

Katherine Rushton's updated piece in today's Daily Mail also reiterates the shocking statistic that men account for only one-in-three of those convicted of TV licence evasion across the UK. Women are far more likely to face prosecution, because they are more likely to answer the door to a TV Licensing employee making routine daytime enquiries.

The average fine imposed in relation to TV licence evasion in England and Wales is £170, which far exceeds the value of similar fines imposed in Scotland (£75 on average) and Northern Ireland (£80 on average).

As of April 2015 those convicted in England and Wales can also expect to pay an additional Criminal Courts Charge on top of any fine, prosecution costs and victim surcharge imposed by the Magistrates' Court.

The Criminal Courts Charge, which is not imposed by courts in Scotland or Northern Ireland, is a mandatory £150 for a defendant pleading guilty from the outset. That rises to an eye-watering £520 for a defendant pleading not guilty who is then convicted after summary trial.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, an outspoken opponent of the TV licence fee, branded the penalties in England and Wales "disproportionate".

He added: "It would be nice to know what the explanation is for why, for the same crime, the fines should be so radically different.

"Evasion needs to be a civil office rather than a criminal one."

Caroline Levesque-Bartlett, a leading campaigner against the current system of enforcement, said: "The fact that the English end up paying more in fines than other parts of the UK is just the final straw.

"The costs imposed exceed the original cost of a licence, placing vulnerable people in a Catch-22 situation. Why can't we just scrap the whole coercive system?"

The BBC, in its statutory role of TV Licensing Authority, is entirely responsible the administration, collection and enforcement of the TV licence fee. It contracts a private company, Capita Business Services, to undertake the majority of this work.

Capita employs around 350 "enquiry officers", who are tasked with visiting the occupiers of unlicensed properties and persuading them, by fair means or foul, that they should buy a TV licence, even if they don't legally need one.

TV Licensing enquiry officers can earn lucrative bonuses through selling TV licences and catching evaders, which has led to numerous allegations of misconduct on their part.


Fred Bear said...

Note that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the BBC/Capita double act carries out private prosecutions in the courts. They can't do that in Scotland so they have to send their TVL178's to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. COPFS obviously think the whole thing is a waste of time as they send out £75 fiscal fines to virtually everyone who has supposedly watched Strictly Come Dancing without a licence. That is classed as a Fiscal Fine Level 2 (Level 1 is £50). The fact that the BBC has decided to ignore WOIRA in Scotland probably means they are getting desperate for money north of the border.

In the Channel Islands the cases are handed on the to police who carry out their own investigations. As one might expect, not many cases come to court - in some years none at all.

Anonymous said...

You can add Jersey, average fine £70

Admin said...

Trust Jersey to screw up the title of this post!

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha! Sorry! It is a great title and a great picture.

Fred Bear said...

Interesting that there was only one fine imposed in Jersey in 2009 and that no-one at all got fined in Jersey in 2013. Looks like the police and courts there are taking a sensible attitude to the serious 'offence' of watching people bake cakes without a TV Licence.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the same do not apply to the Isle of Man! Only 15 people were prosecuted last year but 145 cases were open in the last 8 months, highlighting a great variation, year on year.

The median Fine in IOM was £150 until 2013. In 2015 it has been £200, though a quarter of the 2015 convictions so far have been for £300.


Fred Bear said...

IOM enforcement differs from Jersey and Guernsey in that BBC/Capita prepares the prosecution on the IOM- it then hands the case to a resident lawyer. It's not surprising therefore to see more cases per year there. It would also explain the bias against women on IOM since the procedure is very similar to the UK (ie get the person who answers the door to sign a confession in as short a period as possible) which produces blatantly discriminatory outcomes.

It's also not surprising to see repeat 'offenders' since it's standard BBC practice to check up on anyone found guilty for licence evasion to see if they've bought a licence. If they don't they are visited again and invited to incriminate themselves again.