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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Capita Court Presenters: Right of Audience

Back in September we broke the alarming news that TV Licensing prosecutors - who are responsible for the criminalisation of hundreds of thousands of alleged TV licence evaders every year - are not legally qualified or subject to formal regulation.

These unqualified individuals, known as Court Presenters, are employed by TV Licensing operations contractor Capita Business Services Ltd. They prosecute alleged TV licence evaders on behalf of the BBC, which is the statutory Licensing Authority responsible for all aspects of TV licence administration and enforcement.

The fact that Capita Court Presenters are not legally qualified gives rise to the unfortunate (from TV Licensing's point of view) situation that they are not automatically entitled to a right of audience in the Magistrates' Court. This observation has been attracting considerable commentary over at the TV Licence Resistance forums (a marvellous community, which we'd encourage you to join).

Since they have no automatic right of audience, Capita Court Presenters need to request the court's permission to proceed. In theory the Court Presenter should seek permission for each case they wish the court to consider; in practice they seek permission for however many cases are listed for that session.

Observations suggest that some Court Presenters have such a cosy relationship with court staff that they sometimes omit seeking permission to proceed. Such lackadaisical working practices, cosy and convenient as they might be, are actually an offence under section 14 of the Legal Services Act 2007. We are also concerned by our observation that non-legally qualified Court Presenters frequently offer court legal advisers (who are legally qualified) and Magistrates guidance on points of law - points of law, that is, according to TV Licensing, which may or may not correspond to reality.

In our opinion anyone appearing on TV licence evasion charges should make clear to the court that they strongly object to the fact that the Court Presenter is not legally qualified or subject to formal regulation. They should ask the court to adjourn the case until an appropriately qualified prosecutor is available to conduct the case.

We are seeking further information on this matter, so stay tuned for updates.

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1 comment:

Fred Bear said...

In England & Wales and Northern Ireland these are are all private prosecutions. Essentially, in these areas, the courts are being used as the revenue collecting arm of an entertainment company. It's a really stupid system if you look at it rationally. Unfortunately, it's been around so long that our politicians are reluctant to do away with it completely - they just tinker with it every few years or so.