Anyone summoned to court on TV licence evasion charges should make every effort to attend the hearing in person, as it the only opportunity to make their voice heard.
Over the years we have become accustomed, although not immune, to the nauseating repetitiveness of TV licence evasion cases heard at the Magistrates' Court. These courts work at a blistering pace, disposing of literally dozens of cases every hour.
The Magistrates' Courts are only able to do that because the overwhelming majority of defendants fail to respond to the summons, fail to attend on the day or simply plead guilty - regardless of whether they actually are - because they see it as the easiest option.
It is no exaggeration to say that well over ninety percent of TV licence evasion cases are dealt with in the absence of the defendant. The defendant, for whatever reason, has either failed to respond to the summons or failed to appear in person as they said they would. In either of these cases the Magistrates will only be presented with TV Licensing's version of events, whether or not that bears any resemblance to reality.
Faced with only prosecution evidence the Magistrates have no option but to find the non-attending defendant guilty by default. The court would base its decision entirely on the unchallenged word of the Capita Court Presenter. There would be no need to consider primary evidence, like the completed TVL178 Record of Interview form.
We would encourage all defendants to attend court. By appearing in person the defendant will at least have the opportunity to make their voice heard. Even if they're only attending to plead guilty, then at least they can still explain their personal circumstances and highlight any mitigating factors.
The presence of the defendant means the court will give the case more consideration than it would in their absence. Experience shows that the courts look favourably on defendants pleading guilty from the outset (e.g. when responding the summons), who then appear in person to face their responsibilities.
Whenever possible we encourage a defendant to plead not guilty, thereby forcing TV Licensing to prove its case. As discussed earlier, an uncontested case will invariably go in TV Licensing's favour.
It is only by challenging TV Licensing's evidence or procedures that the defendant has any chance of winning their case. In some circumstances TV Licensing will be so concerned at the prospect of its evidence being tested, that it will actually withdraw the charges before the trial date.
It's time to take the fight to TV Licensing. Stand up, make your voice heard and let the court listen.