The Daily Mail has been in court watching the unscrupulous tactics of Capita Business Services, prosecuting alleged TV licence evaders on behalf of the BBC.
A point of order before we proceed: Nowadays, following the enactment of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, the overwhelming majority of TV Licensing prosecutions take place behind closed doors under the so-called Single Justice Procedure (SJP).
The SJP involves a single Justice, just as the name implies, sentencing a defendant who has already pleaded guilty. The Justice will look at TV Licensing's evidence, but only to weigh up the mitigating and aggravating features of the case before arriving at a sentence. By definition, given the pre-existence of a guilty plea, all cases going via the SJP result in a conviction. Only contested cases (e.g. not guilty pleas) or those where there are queries or complications are heard in open court.
Anyway, Mail journalist Robert Hardman spent a day at Stratford Magistrates' Court watching the open TV Licensing cases. Of the 52 cases listed, only eight resulted in any punishment. That statistic alone is damning in the extreme, as it indicates just how woeful TV Licensing evidence/procedure was in bringing those prosecutions in the first place.
We have previously suggested, and thank God people are coming around to our way of thinking, that TV Licensing chances its hand at thousands of "speculative prosecutions" every year. These are prosecutions where the evidence is seriously flawed or even non-existent, but TV Licensing realises most of them will just be nodded through as the defendant lacks the knowledge or wherewithal to put up a struggle.
During his day in court, Hardman observed cringeworthy conduct by Capita in trying to prosecute a lady with a valid TV licence and a man who didn't even live at the unlicensed property in question at the time of the alleged offence.
Hardman reported how exasperated District Judge Jonathan Radway raised his eyebrows and commented "I do wonder how that could occur?"
He also reported allegations from several defendants that they were tricked into self-incrimination by the TV Licensing goons on their doorsteps.
As we've said on numerous occasions, anyone accused of TV licence evasion should have the confidence to plead not guilty and test TV Licensing's evidence in court. Quite often, as demonstrated by today's report, that evidence won't withstand close scrutiny.
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