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Saturday, 11 March 2017

TV Licensing Interviewing Procedures


The following is a TV Licensing Blog guest post:

Of all the reprehensible things done by TV Licensing, I find their doorstep interviews are by far the most worrying because this is where the "evidence" is obtained that convicts people. TV Licensing claim that their interviews are conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ("PACE") and the PACE Codes of Practice.

Back in October I requested a copy of TV Licensing's procedure for conducting interviews under caution. The BBC responded with a heavily redacted document. [view here] I challenged the need for so many redactions, pointing out that the BBC's justification for the number of redactions was seriously flawed. After a lot of delays I got back a less redacted copy of the interview procedures. [view here]

These reveal that TV Licensing like to overlook some of the rights that are set out in PACE:

1. There is no mention of the fact that interviewees are entitled to legal advice before, during and after interviews. TV Licensing maintain that because their goons do not have arrest powers they don't need to inform interviewees of this right. I disagree with this idea and so did the Home Office when this question was put to them, but even if TV Licensing are right, it is still worrying that goons are not even told that this right exists.

2. There is no mention of the need to ensure that vulnerable interviewees (e.g. anyone suffering from mental health problems) have an appropriate adult (a parent, carer or social worker) present when they are being interviewed. This is worrying given that vulnerable people are more likely to be coerced into signing a confession by am aggressive or manipulative goon.

3. There is no mention of the need for people who don't speak English as a first language to be given access to an interpreter. We know there have been cases where foreign nationals have been tricked into signing confessions they didn't understand.

TV Licensing's interview procedures also reveal some interesting facts about their processes.

1. An interview can only be completed once.
"A VO should not return to an address after completing a Record of Interview as this could prejudice any potential prosecution."

2. Search warrants are not an information gathering tool.
"It must be remembered that a search warrant cannot be used to gather other information, like names or dates of birth (see Chapter Ten - Search Warrant Procedure)."

3. Computer viewing of live broadcasts (and presumably BBC iPlayer) can only be evidenced if the occupant admits to it.
"The VO should obtain sufficient evidence from questioning the interviewee, to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the computer is being used to watch or record “live” TV programmes."

All of this reinforces what we already knew: TV Licensing rely on confessions to convict people that don't have a TV licence (whether they are an evader or legally licence free makes no difference to them) and to maximise the number of confessions they rely on using a procedure that does not really conform to PACE. This also reinforces the fact that not communicating with TV Licensing is the best way to avoid ending up in court. Anyone that is facing a prosecution where the main piece of evidence against them is a confession may be able to use TV Licensing's lack of PACE compliant interviewing procedures as part of their defence though.

TV Licensing Blog comment: We are grateful to Bureaucrat of the TV Licence Resistance forums for providing this article.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love the way they treat a person as a suspect but refer to them as a “customer”. Of course, if you do not need a licence to watch TV you are not a customer and should not be treated as a suspect.

Maryon Jeane said...

Excellent piece. However I'm having problems printing/downloading the TV Licensing interview guidelines - is there any chance of the document being sent to me?

Admin said...

I've mailed them to your bbk*** address.

Bureaucrat said...

I think they're trying to emulate HM Revenue & Customs who refer to everyone as a "customer". It's of course an inappropriate word for someone suspected of committing a criminal offence, suspect being the appropriate term in those circumstances. Not that that matters to TV Licensing as they see any person who does not have a licence as a suspect, as confirmed to me by a TVL "customer service specialist" who told me that visits cannot be prearranged as "every visit is a criminal investigation".