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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, 20 August 2016

Reader Letter: TV Licensing Summons Language Difficulties

In today's post we respond to an email received from one of our readers.

Mohammed's partner, who has a very limited understanding of the English language, has just received a summons to court for the offence of using a TV receiver without a valid TV licence.

Our reader writes:

Dear TV Licensing Blog,

Firstly I would like to say how brilliant your site is, full of information and advice.

My home was visited by a TV licence officer and my partner answered the door.

My partner is illiterate and English is not her first language, in fact she has trouble understanding the very basic words. She was asked several question but due to difficulty in understanding, she replied back to the officer that he should return when I got home. She then closed the door. She never signed the form or let the officer into house.

She has just received a court summons for using a TV without a license, with a brief statement of the visiting officer and a copy of the partially completed TVL178 form. The TVL178 form is half filled in with the responses the officer claims my partner made. These are untrue, as she has no idea how these things work or are connected.

Now the only TV in our house is used for Sony PlayStation by my son. He had a license in the past but decided to discontinue renewing once realising he does not require one due to using only PlayStation or catchup TV.

I do not watch TV and my partner is the same. We do not subscribe to any cable or Sky packages. There is a TV aerial on the roof, but no cable running down. There is also an old Sky dish on the roof, with the cable still running into the house. We commit very long hours to our business and do not have much time to watch TV.

My partner and I are both extremely angry, as we do not expect TV Licensing officers to falsify details in the hope of securing a conviction.

Will it be better to respond to the summons by pleading not guilty? Or should we contact TV Licensing for them to review the summons?

Do these interviews need to comply with PACE? Will this TVL178 form be admissible in court, as my partner could not understand anything?

Thank you.


TV Licensing Blog replies:

Dear Mohammed,

Thank you for taking the time to contact the TV Licensing Blog. I am sorry to hear about the predicament that your partner finds herself in.

It sounds to me as if you are in full compliance with the legislation, in that you do not use equipment to receive TV programmes at your unlicensed property.

If the TVL178 Record of Interview form is completed correctly, then it would be admissable as evidence in court. However, given the language barrier, inaccurate and incomplete nature of the form in your partner's case, we really don't see how TV Licensing can hope to use it as evidence.

Your partner should respond to the summons indicating a not guilty plea. The basis of her not guilty plea is that the information recorded by TV Licensing is inaccurate, incomplete and she did not understand the interview process because of her very limited English.

I would then recommend contacting TV Licensing's Prosecution Team by telephone and explaining to them that your partner does not speak, read or write in English and had no understanding of the questions posed to her by the TV Licensing goon that visited. Her lack of understanding is demonstrated by the incomplete and inaccurate information recorded on the TVL178 form. Make sure TV Licensing is very aware that your partner is prepared to explain the situation to the Magistrates' with the benefit of an interpreter.

In your situation you (and your partner) are not guilty of any crime and I would not, for one moment, be considering any sort of compromise or deal with TV Licensing. TV Licensing is firmly in the wrong and it needs to remedy the situation.

If you've haven't already done so, please download and read our free ebook, TV Licensing Laid Bare.

I'd also be very grateful if you kept me up to date with developments in your partner's case.

Best of luck.


If you have any questions you would like answered on the TV Licensing Blog, please email us with the words "Reader Letter" in the subject line. Our email address is in the sidebar. As mentioned on the About page, we can't guarantee to respond to every email but will try our best.

Edit: We have tidied up the language in Mohammed's email a little bit.

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Fred Bear said...

I'd agree with you, Admin. Might also be worth the couple contacting the local MP if BBC/Capita are not responsive - they're likely to be sensitive to scrutiny at the moment with the BBC's funding still not 100% agreed.

Looks like people are getting wise to doorstep tactics of the lesser-spotted goon - in Performance Pack for 2015, SRP Summary has a whole page dedicated to WOIRA. It summarises:

16,110 Addresses currently being supressed from visiting as of March 2015.

In 2001 there were no WOIRA's in force, and few until 2010, most of them being added in years 2012-15. They are clearly being added at an increasing rate (7,548 being added in 2014).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure a court would (or should at any rate) accept TV Licensing's record of interview as evidence. Giving the caution is not enough to constitute a lawful interview under caution which can be used as evidence. As well as giving the caution, the "enforcement officer" should ensure the person being interviewed understands the caution (if need be it should be broken down and explained), explain that the person being interviewed is not under arrest (regardless of whether this is obvious), and explain that the person being interviewed is entitled to free independent legal advice at any time. A Home Office approved interpreter should also have been called before interviewing Mohammed's wife. In addition to this, a cautioned interview should not take place on an ad hoc basis on someone's doorstep, it should be in a controlled environment (usually a police station but this is not essential) and audio recorded unless it is not possible to do so.

Not following any of the above means the interview was not conducted in accordance with Code of Practice C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and an application should be made in advance of the trial date to have any evidence obtained from it excluded as unfairly obtained evidence (per section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984). TV Licensing's claims that their "interviews" are conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 arr therefore bull**** as they are at best totally ignorant of the correct guidelines, at worst deliberately disregarding them.