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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Historic Court Case: TV Licensing Accused of Serious Malpractice

TV Licensing never applies for search warrants in Scotland - FACT (see here and here for more information).

It is also a fact that virtually no-one accused of TV licence evasion in Scotland is convicted of the offence. Instead, the overwhelming majority of cases are dealt with by way of a fiscal fine, whereby the defendant pays a small sum (£300 or less) to the court on the proviso they will not receive a conviction for the offence.

Kindred spirit Caroline Levesque-Bartlett recently conducted some research into TV licence prosecutions in Scotland and concluded that only 15 cases were actually heard in the Sheriff Courts in 2015. Of those only 12 cases resulted in a conviction.

We have previously surmised that the reason behind the non-existence of search warrants and the negligible conviction rate is that the Scottish legal system demands a much higher standard of evidence than the legal systems of England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

Under Scots law the word of a single commission-chasing TV Licensing goon is simply not good enough (quite rightly so) for a conviction - it has to be corroborated by the word of a second person. That is why TV Licensing goons in Scotland can only collect prosecution evidence when working in pairs. Because they work in pairs, the chances of dubious evidence (e.g. procedurally incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate or fabricated) being slid under the nose of the Procurator Fiscal is instantly reduced by half. The same safeguards do not apply in England and Wales or Northern Ireland, where the word of a single TV Licensing goon is often enough for a prosecution to succeed.

Anyhow, we're getting sidetracked from the main purpose of today's article, which is to share a very interesting newspaper report from the 17th February 1993. It tells the story of legally-licence-free Edinburgh man David Guest, who was relentlessly harassed by TV Licensing for 17 years prior to them finally obtaining a warrant to search his home.

The BBC was responsible for TV Licensing back then, just as it is now. The calendar may have rolled forward more than two decades, but we can see a lot of similarities between then and now (e.g. TV Licensing's continuing reliance on piss-poor evidence that wouldn't withstand closer scrutiny).

This may well have been the case that deterred TV Licensing from ever making another search warrant application to the Scottish Sheriff Courts.

A FAMILY who have not owned a television set for 17 years yesterday won a significant court victory over the TV licensing authorities who, they claim, have mounted a campaign of harassment against them.

Now Mr David Guest, 45, is threatening to sue the licensing authorities for damages in a civil action if they refuse to pay a five-figure sum in compensation.

Mr Guest, an electronics engineer from Newmills Crescent, Balerno, Edinburgh, was charged with obstructing licensing inquiry officers in the course of their duty when they arrived at his home with a search warrant. He refused to let them in.

In July last year, he asked three Judges in the Justiciary Appeal Court to suspend the warrant on the grounds that it had been illegally obtained.

He alleged that inquiry officers had committed perjury to obtain the warrant from a sheriff by claiming that they had seen a flickering light coming from an upstairs bedroom window at his home. Mr Guest, who lives with his wife Alison, a music lecturer, and their two children, described this allegation as a complete fabrication.

The appeal court ordered a hearing of evidence into how the warrant had been obtained and Mr Guest cited six witnesses, including the two TV licensing officers who claimed to have seen the flickering light.

Yesterday, however, Lord Justice Clerk Ross, sitting with Lords McCluskey and Morison, were told that the hearing had been put off because the licensing authorities now conceded that there had not been enough evidence to justify the granting of the warrant.

Ironically, yesterday's appeal was heard in the presence of television cameras, in place for a dummy run, following Lord Hope's decision last summer to allow limited televising of proceedings in the High Court and the Court of Session.

Mr Matthew Clarke, QC, for the licensing authority, maintained that the two officers who had called at Mr Guest's home, genuinely believed that they had seen a flickering light which could have come from a television.

It was now conceded, however, that even if this were true, it was not a sufficient basis for obtaining a warrant. It was accepted that there was no reasonable basis for believing that the light was from a TV set. It could have come from a whole range of other things.

Mr Clarke emphasised that the licensing authority did not accept Mr Guest's allegation that the officers had been guilty of "blatant and malicious fabrication" to obtain the warrant.

Mr Roderick Macdonald, QC, Advocate-depute, confirmed that the obstruction charge had now been dropped and described the circumstances of the case as "quite regrettable". If the sheriff had been told the whole history of Mr Guest and the licensing authorities, he might well have understood why Mr Guest was obstreperous on the doorstep.

Mr Guest told the court that the case had to be seen against the background of 400,000 households in the UK who did not have TV sets but were "routinely hounded" by the licensing authorities.

He alleged that the licensing authorities had conceded the case to spare themselves the embarrassment of evidence being led in court. Lord Ross said the licensing authorities now conceded that the warrant had been obtained on inadequate information and the court awarded full expenses to Mr Guest (which he estimates at £5,500.)

Asked after the hearing if he thought inquiry officers would moderate their behaviour as a result of the case Mr Guest replied: "I jolly well hope so."

He added: "They have been challenging people without reason to declare that they are innocent of the crime of not owning a television set. If the police were to do that there would be public outrage."
Let us close today by reiterating the importance of anyone wrongly accused of TV licence evasion standing up to TV Licensing.

TV Licensing thrives on the fact that most people it accuses of wrongdoing, even if they're totally innocent, just roll over and accept their fate.

It is only by pleading not guilty that a defendant forces TV Licensing to prove the case against them. Quite often, as in the case highlighted above, TV Licensing's case will be so weak that it is unable to prove anything.

If you've found this article of interest, you might also like to refer to these earlier ones:
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Antonia Vanna Delgado said...

A great read thank you

Proof they have been applying the same scam or versions of it for decades to get their way, with the general public or the court system.

It is one of the little talked of travesties in the UK as far as i am concerned, i am saddened to see how brainwashed so many Brits are.

Others seem to have released its success and use it now, Utility company's :(

Anonymous said...

Two observations to make:
1. I think that it is not just Scotland's different legal system that leads to fewer convictions and no warrants being obtained, it is the fact that prosecutions are conducted by the Procurator Fiscal and not TV Licensing's legal department. As Scotland's public prosecution service, the Procurator Fiscal is subject to far more oversight and operates to a higher standard than TV Licensing does. I could imagine that TV Licensing has referred plenty of cases to the Procurator Fiscal in the past only to be told the case won't be prosecuted because it's too weak.

2. Mr Guest's case shows that it is very important to fight back when TV Licensing go too far. Anyone charged with licence evasion only for their case to be dropped before trial should consider suing TV Licensing for malicious prosecution (since a prosecution that is dropped just because the defendant pleads not guilty is indicative of a case that should never have been brought), since only then are they likely to stop harassing innocent people.

Alex (previous guest writer for this blog)