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Saturday 12 September 2015

TV Licence Evasion: The Rudd Defence

A few days ago the BBC provided us with a copy of the TV Licensing Court Presenters' Manual.

As is frequently the case, the BBC had redacted some of the juiciest bits of information within that document. In particular, we note that the BBC censors removed all mention of the successful House of Lords Appeal in the case of Rudd vs. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

That Appeal, heard in 1987, was brought by a defendant, Jeffrey Rudd, convicted of an offence contrary to section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, namely that he used equipment for the purposes of wireless telegraphy without a licence granted by the Secretary of State.

Even though the judgment is almost 30 years old, it is still relevant today because the TV licence sections of the Communications Act 2003 are derived from the 1949 Act. The BBC is fearful of the legal precedent set by the Rudd judgment, which is why it has been airbrushed from the Court Presenters' Manual.

A summary of the Rudd judgment can be read here, but cutting through the legalese it boils down to this significant fact: For a defendant to be guilty of TV licence evasion, the prosecution (TV Licensing) must prove that a television receiver was actually used, and not merely that it was available for use.

This means that unlicensed possession of a television receiver is not an offence, unless it is actually used as a television receiver.

Lord Goff of Chieveley stated: "There may well be circumstances in which, for example, a television set may be available for use in a person's house, and yet he may have no intention to use it and so may not license it. Thus he may be about to go away from home at the time when the licence expires, and not intend to renew the licence until he returns home. It is difficult to see why in such circumstances he should be convicted for an offence under section 11 (of the 1949 Act) on the ground only that the set was available for use and unlicensed..."

He continued: "I recognise that this conclusion may create problems for the enforcing authorities in so far as it means that they cannot simply rely upon the fact that the relevant apparatus was available for use. They will, I fear, have to go further and will if necessary have to persuade the court to draw the inference that the apparatus in question was used by the defendant during the relevant period. But I trust and believe that if, for example, a television set in working order is found in the sitting room of a house occupied by the defendant, it will not be difficult for a court to draw the necessary inference in the absence of some credible explanation by the defendant to the effect that it was not being used."

It therefore follows that TV Licensing has a weak case unless it actually catches a person in the act of receiving TV programmes without a valid TV licence.

Anyone caught with a TV receiver in their premises could offer the perfectly valid defence that it wasn't in use, but was present for some non-licensable purpose (e.g. for listening to radio or playing video games).

Remember that TV Licensing goons have no automatic right of entry to any property. You can avoid the risk of having to rely on the Rudd defence by ignoring TV Licensing completely. Tell them nothing and never allow them access to your home.

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Anonymous said...

How on earth can the case law be redacted?

Admin said...

It shouldn't be really, but this is the BBC that thinks it can do whatever it likes. As we know what was written about Rudd anyway, there seems no point in pursuing the issue.