We asked the BBC to reveal the percentage of people summoned to court for TV licence evasion, who subsequently had their case withdrawn before it reached a conclusion.
We did this with the suspicion that TV Licensing is abusing the judicial system by summoning people to court when they have no real intention of prosecuting. That might sound a rather sweeping suggestion, but if you have read about the Shakespeare case you'll know that TV Licensing contort legal process to suit their own agenda.
Phantom prosecution is just the latest in a long string of dishonest tactics employed by TV Licensing in an effort to generate fee revenue by whatever means necessary.
The BBC is the statutory Licensing Authority responsible for all aspects of the administration and enforcement of the licence fee. The BBC contracts several companies, most notably Capita Business Services Ltd, to perform TV licence work on their behalf. These contracted companies operate under the trading name of TV Licensing, but it is very much the BBC that makes the final decisions.
It is the BBC that agrees the content of TV Licensing's menacing reminder letters; it is the BBC that condones the hard selling tactics of TV Licensing's doorstep salesmen; it is BBC senior managers that personally authorise the voyeuristic activities of Capita employees, under the guise of TV licence enforcement.
Regular readers will be under no doubt that TV Licensing has only one concern - to sell as many licences as possible, by whatever means possible, to generate as much revenue for the BBC as they can. With the fee frozen until 2016 the BBC needs every penny it can raise. TV Licensing are so fixated with selling licences that they reward their visiting officers for every sale secured or evader's collar felt. As visiting officers have a pecuniary advantage with every licence sold some have understandably resorted to criminal tactics to boost their own income.
We suggest that TV Licensing pretend they have sufficient evidence to prosecute someone when in fact they don't. For added impact TV Licensing approach the local Magistrates Court and have their target summoned for an offence on the flimsiest of evidence. TV Licensing's hope is that the unfortunate victim of their charade, usually one of their more awkward opponents, will be so traumatised by the threat of court action that they pay the fee regardless of their legal need to do so.
We hoped to confirm this by getting the BBC to reveal the number, or rather percentage, of TV licence evasion cases they pull the plug on. Sadly they're not playing ball, no doubt recognising the risk of collateral damage posed by disclosure.
As we commented in our internal review request: "If excessive numbers are being summoned it could be an indication that TV Licensing lack confidence in their prosecution evidence, which they wish to avoid being scrutinised in the full gaze of the court.
"It could also be argued that TV Licensing view summoning people to court as just another tactic to coerce fee payment from suspected licence fee evaders, when they have no real intention of pursuing the case. That would be a clear abuse of the legal process."
Unfortunately our forthright questioning appears to have upset the BBC, who have wound up their drawbridge and now refuse to speak to us. In the absence of their clarification we'll have to draw our own conclusions from their silence.
They're certainly not denying the tactics hypothesised above.