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Monday 10 September 2012

TV Licensing Humiliated in Court

TV Licensing is licking its wounds after another of its prosecution cases descended into a humiliating farce in court.

TV Licensing is a trading named used by the companies that enforce and administer the TV licence fee on behalf of the statutory Licensing Authority, the BBC. Capita Business Services Ltd holds the TV Licensing operations contract and employs the majority of TV Licensing staff. It is important to note that the BBC, as Licensing Authority, is ultimately responsible for all matters relating to TV Licensing, which includes the malicious proceedings mentioned in this article.

Steve Heather, 51, from Kent, is one of an increasing army of people making a stand against TV Licensing's oppressive methods of enquiry. In common with Michael Shakespeare he has adopted a lifestyle where he has no legal need for a TV licence. That being the case he wants to enjoy life without unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing.

Increasingly frustrated at TV Licensing's caustic tone Steve exercised his lawful right to withdraw their implied right of access to his property. TV Licensing are quick to quote (mostly imaginary) legislation when it suits, but do not like it at all when the tables are turned. In common with the Shakespeare case Steve's obstinacy had inadvertently set him on a collision course with TV Licensing. It was only a matter of time before, in their eyes, they would try to level the score.

The day of reckoning arrived and TV Licensing went to the extraordinary lengths of obtaining a search warrant for Steve's home. A warrant can only be granted if it is necessary and proportionate to obtain evidence. It is only necessary when the occupier refuses to allow TV Licensing voluntary access to their property. It is only proportionate if TV Licensing have valid grounds to suspect an offence is being committed.

Anyone seeking a search warrant has to make a deposition. This is a statement, on oath, explaining to the Judge or Magistrate why the warrant is necessary and proportionate. We have previously published a copy of the deposition Capita employee Chris Christophorou made in relation to the search of Steve's home. 

Having examined that deposition we were under no doubt that TV Licensing had effectively hoodwinked the Magistrate into granting a warrant on the basis of unreliable evidence. Our damning appraisal was: "Assuming Christophorou's evidence is an honest representation of how detector vans work then it's no wonder the BBC wants to keep their technology under wraps. In a nutshell they're employing bad science, possibly to baffle non-scientifically minded Magistrates into granting search warrants."

Given that TV Licensing's case has now been thoroughly discredited in court it would appear our initial scepticism had some merit. As the trial is over and Steve has been fully vindicated, we can now reveal exactly what happened when his home was searched.

In accordance with TV Licensing policy Steve's home was searched by two of their employees accompanied by the police. Steve was present as they searched, but he refrained from answering questions or giving assistance. They tested a TV set in his front room and, in scenes reminiscent of the Shakespeare case, an image briefly flashed before their eyes. Satisfied that they had just seen a snapshot of BBC One (maybe even The One Show) they left the property and started legal proceedings. However, in a glaring own goal, they failed to confirm exactly what the image was.

The goons trotted off in the smug belief they had captured a split second of broadcast TV which, if true, would have confirmed that Steve was illegally watching TV without a licence. In reality they hadn't seen a TV image at all - they had actually seen the menu from his Sky box. Steve uses a Sky box to listen to DAB radio via his TV set, which the BBC has confirmed is perfectly legal without a TV licence. Yes, you heard correctly - in a feat of staggering incompetence, even by TV Licensing's inept standards, the goons had confused the Sky box menu for a TV programme.

Steve, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, was charged with an offence under section 363 of the Communications Act 2003, namely that he had used TV receiving equipment without a valid TV licence. He was summoned to attend Canterbury Magistrates Court, where he pleaded not guilty and awaited a trial date. He used the intervening time to prepare his defence and focus on his tiring medical treatment.

The trial was heard before a District Judge at Dover Magistrates Court, where it concluded on 7th September 2012. In a further demonstration of their bully boy tactics TV Licensing had instructed a Barrister to represent them in court. Their final intimidatory gasp was to waste thousands of pounds flexing their legal muscles just to make a point. Despite the prosecution's might Steve managed to keep a level head and refused to be distracted from his pivotal defence argument. In cross examination TV Licensing's own witnesses, the employees who conducted the search, admitted they couldn't be sure what they had seen on Steve's TV screen. That being the case TV Licensing had no evidence whatsoever to secure a conviction. It is noted that at this stage TV Licensing could have wheeled out the incriminating "detection evidence" they had mentioned in their earlier deposition, but refused to do so. No doubt they recognised it would be torn apart in court, as it was torn apart in our earlier article. If that was to happen any last illusion that detection was effective, as the BBC and TV Licensing like to pretend, would be publicly shattered into a thousand pieces.

In summing up District Judge Justin Barron drew attention to the inconsistencies in TV Licensing's case and found Steve not guilty.

Even though the trial is over there are many questions that remain unanswered. For a start how were TV Licensing able to obtain a search warrant on the basis of detection evidence it seems they couldn't have? People should be extremely concerned at TV Licensing's willingness to prosecute on the basis of substandard evidence. How many thousands of innocent people have pleaded guilty to TV licence evasion in the mistaken belief TV Licensing had reliable evidence against them?

Answers on a postcard please. Not that we're in any doubt about the answers already.

Edit (9/6/13): For further information please see the BBC's response to a Freedom of Information Act request on Steve Heather's case. The document confirms that TV Licensing (or rather Capita) refused to allow Chris Christophorou, the goon who laid on oath the deposition statement, to attend court for cross-examination by Steve's defence solicitor. Draw your own conclusions from the one. The document also confirms that the deposition we published earlier is legitimate (not that we'd ever make anything up, but it no doubt crossed the minds of any BBC luvvies who are reading).


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for going to all the effort of making this blog possible.
My wife and I decided earlier in the year that we couldn't justify paying the licence fee in view of the fact that we very rarely, if ever, watched t.v. We don't miss it and we don't plan on watching again any time soon.
What concerns me is TVL's willingness to stoop to gutter level to obtain convictions on zero evidence. I have taped over the aeriel point in the house and the only t.v. we have is in my wife's room- not connected to an aerial and used only for DVD's.
We have already had one visit (which was ignored) but I wonder how long it will be before we get a search warrant issued against us. What happens should they turn up with a warrant and don't pick up anything (which they won't) Do they apologise and scuttle off with tail between legs, or make up some bullshit?
I am genuinely concerned even though we are legally licence free. This is an outrage and the more you draw attention to their underhand tactics the better.
Thanks for your public service!

Unknown said...

I just saw your reply on my Blog: http://morsethinks.blogspot.fr/2012/08/what-would-john-logie-baird-say.html
I feel like jumping up and shouting hooray for this guy. I hope he takes them for damages for stress and harassment!

Unknown said...

I just saw your comment on my blog:
I felt like cheering reading this article. I hope he gets damages for stress and harassment.

Anonymous said...

TV Licensing are lying toads. I had the situation of being threatened with a summons after a visit from their mafia. We were going on an extended holiday and our license was due to expire while we were away. I contacted TV Licensing asking what I should do and was told, take out a license when you get back. We arrived home late on a Sunday, Monday morning the enforcement officer was on the doorstep so I showed him the emails to and from TV Licensing which obviously had no effect. The letter informing me of the summons stated that the enforcement officer had evidence of a TV set being used; he was lying as we had taken our TV set to our daughters before we left and did not retrieve it till later in the week by which time I had a new license. Something needs to be done about these people.

Admin said...

Your story is by no means unique... as I think you can tell?!

Adams Wife said...

My Dad died 5yrs ago aged 86. He had a free licence. I wrote to the TV licensing to tell them and cancel his licence. 2 months after he died I got a snotty letter from the TVL people..... I was his executor so had all his mail transferred to me.... They demanded proof he was dead! I wrote back saying what difference did it make bcos he didn't pay for his licence anyway!
That started an avalanche of letters culminating in them saying they had looked through the window and could see a TV set connected but no-one answered their knock! They said if I didn't ( actually they said if my Dad didnt!,,) then they would get a warrant to enter the premises etc etc etc.
I ignored them stopped even opening their mail but over the following 6 months they went to my Dads house several times, spoke to neighbours who confirmed Dad had died and then when I sold the house they even came to see the new owners about my dads new address!
Words almost fail me

John Galt said...

In your position I would tell the story to the local paper, or even the Daily Mail.

They love that sort of stuff.

Anonymous said...

The link to Shakespeare's site fails saying it contains malware. Going to his home page goes to a holding page.

Trying to get to www.bbcresistance.com fails too.

Admin said...

Thanks for the comment Anon.
I don't get what you mean about Shakespeare's site? Which link do you mean?
The links in this article are good.

Anonymous said...

I don't for one moment disagree with the idea that TV Licensing are disingenuous bastards, but it's slightly ridiculous to ask "How many thousands of innocent people have pleaded guilty to TV licence evasion in the mistaken belief TV Licensing had reliable evidence against them?" because surely a truly innocent party would not plead guilty.

Admin said...

I disagree.
TV Licensing (and its employees) make the law that ambiguous that a truly innocent person might not even realise they are innocent.
There are plenty of TV Licensing goons dishonestly telling people "you have a TV set, so you need a TV licence" purely because it bumps up their performance stats.

Unknown said...

Somewhere, I am currently searching there was a case of a solicitor who withheld his license fee payments , stating he would not pay until the BBC started reporting un biased news coverage as set out in the Royal Charter and as most people know it hasn't been unbiased for years , the court threw the case out , nobody was charged and no fine was imposed Caution he did not refuse to pay , he withheld his payments ��, the difference is in the subtle way we say things.

Tommy said...

So you dont need a licence to own a TV and watch dvds on it or Youtube and some catch up channels. How then can you be prosecuted, even if they can access your home and see you have a tv, the tv has to be on and live tv showing to prove you are breaking the law. If teh goons entered my house and saw my tv, but it wasnt on, how can they prosecute? By the way I dont watch live tv and my ariel works. They surely cant do anything.

Pistol said...

That IS the question! Do you (or anyone else reading this) have a DEFINITIVE answer? I've always paid for my license even back in the '90's as a student! But since getting NOW TV and finally just recently Netflix,I find I am VERY rarely watching or even RECORDING broadcast TV. So I no longer feel I'm getting value for money. One question which I think cuts to the heart of the matter...do THEY have to prove that I have been watching broadcast TV or do I have to prove that I CAN'T? It's very simple for me to disconnect my digiboxes if need be it the reverse also applies. I know they have no right of access but I'm still wondering if it's worth the headache of cancelling.

Admin said...

I have a definitive answer: Every conviction depends on:
- Either: A TV Licensing goon observes, first-hand, the unlicensed reception of TV programmes. This can clearly only happen if they somehow obtain access to the property;
- Or: The occupier of an unlicensed property admits to receiving TV programmes. This admission could be on the doorstep, without the goon having seen the equipment.

Only if either of these two conditions is satisfied, is a completed TVL178 Record of Interview form acceptable for prosecution (e.g. of Code 8 standard).

Please read more here: https://tv-licensing.blogspot.com/2015/02/tv-licensing-prosecution-interviews.html