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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Reddit: TV Licensing Search Warrant Obstruction

A very interesting conversation has emerged on the subject of TV Licensing search warrant obstruction.

A user going by the name of tvlthrowawayuk posted their query to that bastion of sound legal advice, reddit. To avoid repetition of tvlthrowawayuk we shall refer to them as the poster. We shall also refer to them in the male pronoun, as that is likely to be the case given their comments on reddit.

The poster explained in detail that he was legally-licence-free, but somehow TV Licensing managed to obtain a warrant to search his property. TV Licensing search warrants are exceptionally rare, but somehow Capita, which prosecutes on behalf of the BBC, had managed to convince a Magistrate that the grant of a warrant was necessary and proportionate because evidence of wrongdoing would be found at the property and access would not be secured by any other means.

You can read much more about the legal status of TV Licensing search warrants in our earlier post.

He described how two TV Licensing goons, accompanied by two uniformed police officers, landed on his doorstep yesterday. Satisfied that the warrant was in order, the poster allowed them access to the property. He also took the very sensible precaution of filming the encounter in full, as TV Licensing is known to embellish the truth (e.g. tell downright lies) when it suits.

According to the poster, he told the TV Licensing goons from the outset that he would not be answering any questions, as he was under no legal obligation to do so. The goons proceeded to search the main living areas of the property and uncovered no evidence of unlicensed TV reception. They did, however, find a laptop in the kitchen, which they requested to examine further.

The laptop in question belonged to the poster's girlfriend and he didn't know the password to access it. In any event, clearly unknown to the TV Licensing goons in question, warrants granted under section 368 of the Communications Act 2003 do not permit the examination of password protected data storage devices. Additional legal authority would be required for that, which would never be granted to TV Licensing. In any event the examination of a laptop computer, which could easily be used anywhere covered by a valid TV licence, would prove absolutely nothing at all.

The poster explained to the TV Licensing goons that he did not know the password to access his girlfriend's laptop and could not access it. As was his right, he continued to refuse answering any questions.

This clearly infuriated the TV Licensing goons, who trotted off with their tail between their legs and threatening him with obstruction charges.

We have previously observed that TV Licensing will vindictively pursue obstruction charges as some sort of perverse consolation prize whenever a search warrant uncovers no evidence of wrongdoing. From what the poster has said, he has fulfilled all of his legal duties by allowing TV Licensing prompt access to the property and letting them search for and test every possible TV receiver within his control. That being the case, we consider any obstruction charge to be unfounded and meritless in the extreme.

We would definitely like to see the poster's footage of the search and would encourage him to get in touch.

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Fred Bear said...

It might also be helpful to remind your readers of the information inadvertently released in 2016 in the What Do They Know website

2015 Search warrants, UK total

Requested by goons: 351
Applied for: 256
Granted: 167
Executed: 115
"Successful" 97
"Unsuccessful" 17

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that a Search Warrant issued under the Communications Act 2003 does not authorise Capita to search a computer.

As computers are primary data storage and data processing devices that just happen to be able to revive TV programmes as well, you would need a Warrant issued under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and such a Warrant has to be signed by a Hight Court Judge, a JP wont cut it. High Court Judges are qualified layers are not as easily bamboozled as a JP.

If this is the case then threats of Obstruction are just drivel.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't let them in with a search warrant either. Say nothing and shut the door or don't open it in the first place. What are they going to do? Smash my door down to see me 'not watching TV'? Because I will defend myself.