We quipped yesterday that is was obviously a very slow news day in Derbyshire, because the local rag was consigned to publishing outdated tripe about TV Licensing detector vans.
According to an article in the Derby Telegraph, TV Licensing's fleet of shit-scary detector vans, all half dozen of them, are going to be cruising the back streets of Derby as enthusiastically as kerb crawlers seeking their first New Year's leg over.
TV Licensing PR harlot Mark Whitehouse explained: "Detector vans are an important part of our enforcement of the licence fee and our use of detection equipment is subject to the independent oversight of the Office of Surveillance Commissioners. We don't go into detail about how many vans there are or how they work as this information might be useful to people trying to evade the fee."
Unfortunately for TV Licensing we have previously gone into considerable detail about how these vans work and how evidence from them has never been presented for closer scrutiny in open court. It's fair to say we have a good understanding of how and when the vans are deployed and of the evidential weaknesses of the technology inside.
Whitehouse concludes his article with the traditional TV Licensing threat: "TV Licensing catches more than 1,000 evaders a day. In 2012, it caught more than 1,500 people in Derby watching without a licence. Anyone caught watching or recording television programmes without a licence risks a £1,000 fine."
What he fails to mention is that well under half of those alleged fee-dodgers are actually convicted, because TV Licensing chooses to abandon tens of thousands of dubious cases before they get as far as court. Of those unfortunate souls that are convicted, fines in excess of £200 are virtually unheard of.
By way of an example, according to the BBC there were 312,715 evaders caught in England and Wales in 2007 (BBC FOIA ref: RFI20080413). The corresponding Ministry of Justice figures reveal that only 120,908 (38%) of those were convicted (MoJ FOIA ref: FOI/62333/09).
If you're in Derbyshire please keep your eyes open for a TV detector van, as it may be worth your while. More information about that in our next post.