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Sunday, 16 August 2015

TV Licensing and Withdrawal of Implied Rights of Access (WOIRA): An Important Update

In the course of its routine enquiries TV Licensing has no more right to access a property than any other cold-caller.

For historical reasons there is an implied right of access that allows delivery people and suchlike to visit a property as they go about their legitimate business. This right of access can be removed by the occupier in a process known as Withdrawal of Implied Right of Access (WOIRA).

It didn't take too long for members of the legally-licence-free community to recognise the potential benefits of the WOIRA process. In theory, according to the BBC's own policy document, TV Licensing should respect any WOIRA instruction and stay away from the property. As an added bonus WOIRA properties are removed from TV Licensing's monthly threatogram list, as these letters imply that an "officer" may call at the property.

If TV Licensing were to breach a valid WOIRA instruction, then it would be committing trespass and the occupier could pursue a civil action. That was the theory anyway, but it never quite worked that way in practise.

For a couple of years the WOIRA process seemed to work quite well. Frustrated householders would dutifully post their WOIRA letters to TV Licensing, which would confirm receipt and warn that it reserved the right to take "alternative measures" to verify the licensable status of their properties.

Since January 2008, when records first began, the number of WOIRA properties had risen to around 16,000, which the BBC undoubtedly views as a revenue loss of £2.3m per annum.

A lot of people viewed WOIRA as a magic bullet; a one-size-fits-all method of keeping TV Licensing pariahs at bay. Sadly for them, it wasn't to be. It didn't take too long before TV Licensing started to ignore WOIRA letters and visited the properties anyway.

TV Licensing could never openly admit that to ignoring lawful WOIRA instructions, but given the number of breaches we've seen on YouTube there appears little doubt. Ignoring WOIRA is undoubtedly one of the many "dirty little secrets" TV Licensing goons are expected to deny if challenged.

With the benefit of hindsight, we now view WOIRA as a potentially risky strategy. It should only be used if the occupier is ready and willing for direct confrontation with TV Licensing, because that is the probable outcome.

WOIRA is risky for the following reasons:
  • By issuing a WOIRA instruction, the occupier is confirming their presence at the property and opposition to TV Licensing. Experience shows that TV Licensing is far more likely to escalate its enquiries when dealing with an opponent.
  • By issuing a WOIRA instruction, the occupier is making it clear to TV Licensing that it will never gain access on a consensual basis. That increases TV Licensing's chances of successfully applying for a search warrant later on.
Thanks to colleagues at the Active Resistance to the TV Licence Facebook group, we now know that TV Licensing has a new policy of disregarding WOIRA instructions in Scotland, as the law of trespass is different to the rest of the UK.

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Chris said...

It's worth pointing out that in England your redress for a goon trespassing is a civil one and related to the damages they have caused, ie usually nothing, hence Capita can ignore WOIRAs to their heart's content since no damage is incurred and so no liability. Could their dubious intimidatory tactics escalate this into aggravated trespass? In either case IANAL and it would be interesting if someone who genuinely is would leave a comment with a more concrete explanation.

Admin said...

Good point Chris and I have amended the post slightly to include the trespass point.

Individual TV Licensing goons would be guilty of aggravated trespass if they were asked to leave, but instead persisted with any threatening behaviour. However, in most cases it will boil down to the occupier's word against the goon's and the police are generally conditioned to side with the goon.

foxyman said...

Never been a fan of the WOIRA's, unless one is prepared to issue one to all who would turn up at the house. Would advise that no contact is the best method.

Wiki-Storyteller said...

so, if BBC are being more 'aggressive' with householders with WOIRA's - dont you think it would be a good idea to suggest that EVERY householder gets a WOIRA? - the power of mass People Power should never be underestimated. and in my opinion the Woira's in possession would clearly show a 'class divide' - as usual! I think it is high time that every householder posts a clear message ON THEIR FRONT DOOR that 'random' callers will be dealt with most severley. I HATE random callers and never answer. I wish everybody would do this and also be curt with cold callers. (and ask to be taken off their list) Gross invasion of privacy needs to be taken VERY seriously - especially in this day and age. And (like you said) the Police and Courts are nothing more then puppets of the hierarch. makes me sick!

Anonymous said...

Because 'WOIRA' isn't law in Scotland and WOIRA's are for idiots anyway

John Casey said...

in my view a mass woira would be very successful but tricky yo guarantee enough numbers for it to be a measured success.

failure at such an effort would be a critical blow for resistance as a whole.

PosterChild said...

Or we could just have a poster printed (caution: this article contains one artistically necessary swear-word - do not read on if easily offended). It is designed to look like a letter. First comes the logo of the National Health Service (duly nobbled, to avoid copyright wossname), and the address of TVL in Bristol or wherever they hang out nowadays. Then the date (just month and year), and then it goes on:

Dear Capita Employee,

You have not responded to our previous hints. We want to ensure that you have the information you may need before a hospital visit.

Please read the information below carefully and keep for your records. You will be allowed to take it into hospital with you.

Yours faithfully
Made-up signature
Made-up name
Area Enforcement Manager

What to expect in hospital.

If you are taken to hospital, this is what you can expect to happen:

* You can try to find a doctor, or you can try to treat your own injuries. The waiting list is very, very long.
* Information collected during a diagnosis is used by the doctor to decide whether you're going to survive.
* The doctor gets paid, whether or not you survive.
* Even if you do survive, you may receive further injuries later on.

How to avoid a stay in hospital:

Fnord Prefect said...

"Our colleagues at Active Resistance to the TV Licence"?

Surprised to read that. Have they suddenly stopped posting fake videos, uncredited stolen content and giving bad pseudo-legal advice? Anything's possible I guess.

Admin said...

No Fnord Prefect, I don't think they have entirely.
As I've used something of their's it's only right I credit it, same as I do from anywhere else.

John Casey said...

are we still at that stage?? Really???

Tvl blog remains highly professional in its campaign which is a credit to the administration and a bonus for the Resistance as a whole.

One enemy remember.

Anonymous said...

Once you know it's a goon, you don't say a word, not one. This way he won't even know if he's dealing with the house owner/tenant, let alone get any other information. Don't speak to them people!!!...

Admin said...

Very good advice Anon.
We heartily concur.

JSF666 said...

Dont bother with WORIA Identify, Ignore, close the door as in Identify if a BBC/TVL goon say nothing sign nothing close door then carry on with your life with that warm satifaction of denying the goon of £20 and the BBC of £145-50p

Divinus Lux said...

WOIRA's do work! I've done almost 70 for friends and family since 2013... No further action has commenced with any. You just get the nice letter about being contacted again in 2 years blah, blah, blah. Set up a non identifying email address and send your WOIRA to Andy Parker CEO @andy.parker@capita.co.uk, remembering to include your Fee Schedule (again, do not use any legal name(s) or signatures.) Also, it's a good idea to warn Andy that should he transgress from your notice(s), you will commence with a private commercial lien process against him personally.
Do you think he will risk that? Nope.

Keep fighting the good fight folks!