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Sunday, 12 November 2017

TV Licensing Prosecutes Polish Mother: Defence Submission

Yesterday we published the brilliant news that Capita TV Licensing had decided to withdraw hopelessly flawed TV licence evasion charges against a vulnerable Polish mother.

We mentioned that we had assisted the lady, Mrs Tekla, with making a defence submission to the court. Our noble colleague Bureaucrat, of the TV Licence Resistance forums, created the document in question, which you can read below:

Case Number: 621700XXXXXX


TV Licensing (Prosecution)


[Name Redacted] (Defendant)


Suggested pre-reading: PACE Code of Practice C.

1. The defence submits that the prosecution’s “record of interview” should be excluded under sections 76(2)(b) and/or 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”).

Summary of Facts
2. On [date] a representative of TV Licensing attended the defendant’s address and interviewed her. The prosecution maintains that this interview was conducted under caution in accordance with PACE, a matter which the defence disputes.

Exclusion of Evidence
3. The prosecution case relies on a form that purports to be a record of an interview under caution. Such an interview should have been conducted in accordance with the relevant parts of PACE Code of Practice C, paragraph 13.2 of which states:

Unless paragraphs 11.1 or 11.18(c) apply, a suspect who for the purposes of this Code requires an interpreter because they do not appear to speak or understand English (see paragraphs 3.5(c)(ii) and 3.12) must not be interviewed unless arrangements are made for a person capable of interpreting to assist the suspect to understand and communicate.

4. The defendant’s first language is Polish and her English is not fluent. This would have been apparent to anyone speaking to her. However, no provision was made for an interpreter to be obtained before interviewing her.

5. The defence respectfully submits that the Court should exclude the prosecution’s record of interview under section 76(2)(b) of PACE as a confession which was obtained in circumstances that render it unreliable, namely the absence of an interpreter meant that the defendant did not fully comprehend the nature of the interview or the contents or meaning of the form she signed.

6. Additionally or alternatively, the defence respectfully submits that the record of interview should be excluded as unfairly obtained evidence under section 78 of PACE on the basis that the absence of an interpreter made the interview process unfair as it put the defendant in a position where she could not properly understand the nature of the interview, the offence she was accused of, the questions she was asked or the contents and meaning of the form she signed.

Bureaucrat, who has professional expertise in these matters, has helpfully provided the following commentary:

"TV Licensing prosecutes most of its cases using incriminating statements people have made to goons. These statements are taken by interviewing the defendant under caution and getting them to sign a paper record of the interview to confirm its accuracy. TV Licensing claim that this process is compliant with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), though this is something I have disputed and argued with them for a while.

"PACE accords people being interviewed under caution several rights, one of which is that non native English speakers should have an interpreter present. Cases like this show why this is so important. Unfortunately TV Licensing likes to ignore important PACE rights like this because it saves money and results in more people being tricked into incriminating themselves.

"Section 76 of PACE gives a court the power to exclude a confession that was obtained in circumstances that make it likely to be unreliable. Clearly a confession obtained from a non native English speaker who had no interpreter present is likely to be unreliable.

"Section 78 of PACE gives a court a very broad power to exclude evidence that it considers unfair. A record of an interview conducted with someone whose native language isn't English, who will therefore not have understood the questions properly, is unfair.

"The defence submissions I wrote for this case intended to persuade the court to exclude TV Licensing's evidence using its powers under sections 76 or 78 of PACE, which would have had the effect of causing TV Licensing's case to collapse. As TV Licensing withdrew its case the court didn't get a chance to consider the submissions. It is unclear whether TV Licensing withdrew because it genuinely felt that there was no public interest in pursuing this case, or whether it wanted to save the embarrassment of a court scrutinising the deficiencies in its interview process."

As Bureaucrat has rightly identified, the fact that TV Licensing has chosen to withdraw the charges against Mrs Tekla means we cannot know for sure how the court would have reacted to this defence submission.

TV Licensing received a copy of this submission at the same time as the court, which we'd suggest had some bearing on its decision only a few days later to withdraw the charges.

TV Licensing undoubtedly realised that had the trial gone ahead serious questions would have been raised in open court about the quality of its evidence. Pulling the plug now means that TV Licensing avoids the embarrassing prospect of its evidence being disallowed.

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M. SHAKEY said...

Well done to TVL Blogger and to 'Bureaucrat' for the excellent Defence Statement. I know from personal experience that once started BBC TVL will crash on, regardless of how flawed or unreliable their, so called, 'evidence' is. There is a wind of change blowing now, they seem to see some of this flawed and unreliable 'evidence' for what it is. Wekll done to you all.

Bureaucrat said...

Thank you Shakey. I think your case showed them that big high profile cases are too risky and it is better to save face and withdraw, citing the "public interest" if there is any indication that the admissibility of their evidence will be challenged. However, the fact that charges are brought in the first place in cases where the evidence is flawed is very worrying and suggests either prosecutorial incompetence and/or bad faith at TVL.

Fred Bear said...

I wonder if the BBC/Capita ever prosecute contested cases. Not only would they have to provide a trained lawyer instead of a Court Presenter, they'd have to arrange for the goon who took the statement to get to court. Given that it would be 5 months or so since the statement was taken, it would be unlikely that the goon would remember much about the encounter. Far easier to drop the case.

Bureaucrat said...

I understand that they do prosecute some contested cases (there is at least one example I've read on here) but they also drop a great deal of them. While good for the defendants in those cases, it is worrying that TVL would charge a case that they are not prepared to fight at a contested trial.

Fred Bear said...

In all cases, the BBC only cares about the money they can get.

Unfortunately as this recent 'debate' shows, our MPs are nearly clueless when it comes to the BBC's methods of fund raising.


The funny thing is that the Scottish and Channel Island authorities have effectively decriminalized TV Licence 'evasion' (just a handful of prosecutions north of the border per year) and the sky hasn't fallen in. It can't be long before England, Wales and NI follow suit.