Data released by the BBC reveals that TV Licensing operations contractor, Capita Business Services Ltd, is awarded £120m in prosecution costs every year.
This information appears in the TV Licensing Field Performance Pack for March 2015, which was released by the BBC in response to a recent Freedom of Information request. Unfortunately for them, the chimp they hired to do the redactions wasn't very effective at its job.
Part of Capita's role as operations contractor is to prosecute those individuals accused of TV licence evasion. Those convicted of the offence are normally fined and ordered to pay a contribution towards prosecution costs. In TV licence cases the true prosecution costs are minimal, but that doesn't deter Capita from making an inflated, in our opinion, standard costs request of £120 per case (at time of writing, for cases dealt with at the first hearing). In most cases, the court will succumb to that request.
The BBC has previously confirmed that prosecution costs awarded by the court are retained by Capita and are intended to "reimburse the prosecutor and not enrich them". Given the massive sums involved, we suggest that Capita has a clear vested interest in dragging as many people to court as possible, however tenuous the evidence against them.
The overwhelming majority of those prosecuted for TV licence evasion are financially disadvantaged, which makes it particularly galling that Capita, a FTSE 100 company that made £639m in profit in 2014-15, generates such massive revenue at their expense.
Data obtained by the TV Licensing Blog reveals that Capita was awarded £118.2m in prosecution costs in the financial year 2014-15. Of that, some £73.8m was actually recovered by the court and paid to Capita. The BBC has noted that these figures should not be released publicly (oops) because the revelation that the courts are sluggish at collecting prosecution costs might encourage evasion (oh dear).
View the TV Licensing Analysis of Court Activity 2014-15 here.
The data confirms that Capita routinely withdraws about 10 percent of all cases laid before the court. Bear in mind that TV Licensing prosecutes very few of the people it accuses of TV licence evasion. Ministry of Justice data indicates that only about 40 percent of those TV Licensing claim to be evading the fee are actually convicted of the offence (see this earlier post).
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