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Saturday, 29 March 2014

TV Licensing Legal Process: Asking Awkward Questions


Longer-term readers of the TV Licensing Blog might remember the case of YouTube user j2LightWorker, who had several run ins with TV Licensing back in 2012 despite having no legal need for a TV licence.

One of j2's more memorable encounters was with TV Licensing resident hard man Mr Grumpy, who is shown in the image below. Mr Grumpy, who is still employed in the West Yorkshire area by TV Licensing operations contractor Capita Business Services, is a particularly repugnant bottom-dweller even by their gutter standards.


Mr Grumpy oozed his way onto j2's Bradford doorstep back in January 2012, his nostrils flared with rage and brow furrowed with disapproval. Just like a politician the deceit rolled fluently from his forked tongue and with each forced utterance spittle flew high through the air. You can read all about that first encounter in our earlier post on the subject.  Indeed there are several earlier posts referring to Mr Grumpy, so you may wish to use the search facility to gain a full appreciation of his despicable modus operandi.

Anyhow, back to the story at hand. Towards the end of June 2012 TV Licensing actually executed a search warrant at the address in question. On what was a balmy summer's day two TV Licensing goons and two police officers entered the property through the already opened door. Like locusts they moved from room to room, looking for that nugget of evidence that would prove j2 had been receiving TV programmes without a valid licence. Sadly for them, they found nothing at all of significance. Despite invading j2's home and rummaging through his personal belongings, there was no TV receiving equipment. The goons left empty handed with their heads down and tails between their legs.

Scroll forward 2 years and j2 has now moved to a new home, but he remains perplexed, as we all do, about how TV Licensing were able to convince a Magistrate to issue a search warrant in the first place.

TV Licensing's use of search warrants is authorised under section 366 of the Communications Act 2003. In order to obtain a warrant TV Licensing has to convince a Magistrate that there are reasonable grounds to suspect the following:
  • That an offence under section 363 of the Act has been or is being committed (e.g. unlicensed TV reception);
  • That evidence of the commission of an offence is likely to be on the premises specified; 
  • That entry to the premises will not be granted unless a warrant is produced;
  • That the purpose of any search may be frustrated or seriously prejudiced unless the search is carried out be a person who secured entry immediately on arrival at the premises.
During the search warrant application process a TV Licensing employee swears an information, on oath, before a Magistrate. That sworn statement, known as a Deposition, contains TV Licensing's rationale for wanting to search the premises. If the Magistrate is satisfied that the conditions above have been met, then he/she grants the application and authorises the search. Warrants granted under section 366 must be executed within one month and allow entry to the specified premises only once.

j2 has never used equipment for the unlicensed reception of TV programmes. He has always maintained that standpoint, which is reinforced by the fact that TV Licensing's search found nothing. Given those circumstances, it is difficult to imagine the evidence TV Licensing gathered in order to form the reasonable suspicion that an offence was being committed.

In order to satisfy our curiosity j2 has been in contact Kirklees Magistrates' Court for a copy of the Deposition, as it was a Magistrate at Kirklees who granted the warrant on 6th June 2012. After several weeks of being passed from pillar to post, j2 eventually managed to speak to the Deputy Justices' Clerk, who is apparently the man that gets things done.

The Clerk has advised j2 that new rules mean he must contact Capita and inform them of his application to view the Deposition. Capita has 14 days to make any objections to his request, although doing so would obviously serve to heighten our curiosity even further. A copy of j2's letter to Capita is shown in the image below:


j2 has also been in regular contact with his MP, David Ward, who is assisting with enquiries on his behalf.

To be blunt, as we've said before, we believe that TV Licensing are sometimes more concerned about settling grudges than acting judiciously. The Shakespeare case is the most glaring example of TV Licensing's persecution of an innocent, albeit outspoken, opponent of theirs. It is our belief that TV Licensing's desire to search j2's property stems more from the fact he had publicly humiliated goons on YouTube, rather than any solid evidence of unlicensed TV reception at his address. By viewing the Deposition we'll be able to evaluate the quality of TV Licensing's evidence for ourselves.

We eagerly await the outcome of this one, so stay tuned for further updates.

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Update (6/4/14): Capita TV Licensing's legal team have replied to j2's request to see the Deposition. In their letter, dated 2nd April 2014, they confirm that they have no objections, however, as the occupier's current address is different to that where the warrant was executed they "respectfully ask the court to verify that the information is only released if the correspondent (j2) can prove residency at the address at the time of the warrant's execution".

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mercury Tax Group Ltd v HMRC [2008] EWHC 2721. Mr Justice Underhill: “The authorities repeatedly emphasise that the approval of a judge to the issue of search warrants - which unless properly justified represent a gross intrusion on civil liberties - cannot be a rubber stamp: it is his duty to subject the information put before him to jealous scrutiny”.

admin said...

Thank you for your comment Anon and the reference.

It is absolutely the case that a Magistrate should consider the evidence very carefully during the application for a search warrant. They should only grant the warrant if they consider the circumstances fully justify it and should never, as you say, rubber-stamp the application.

Sadly, it would appear that some Magistrates do not show due diligence when Crapita approach them for TV Licensing search warrants.

These Magistrates appear happy to accept the most spurious and superficial of evidence like "our man thinks he heard a TV" or "he thinks he saw the occupier watching Eastenders through the window". That's pretty pathetic and unsubstantiated evidence to say the least.

TV said...

Govt should give tv streaming license easily to distributor and other authorized people to make easy to run tv channel in Pakistan.


Geo Kahani

Matt Williams said...

J2Lightworker's YouTube videos were the catalyst for the search warrant in my opinion. The way Capita took revenge on J2 and Danny Allen for uploading YouTube videos of their continued TV Licensing™ goon harassment visits is proof enough to me that the BBC and Capita are vindictive to those that stand up for themselves.



admin said...

Thanks for your comments.

Geo Kahani, you're missing the point that this is about UK TV Licensing. Still, at least you dropped your links!

j2LightWorker said...

what is also interesting to note is the hoops they make you jump through just to see the information laid on oath that resulted in the warrant being issued then executed... this is also a matter of due process before and after that information... more information to come soon... :-)

Anonymous said...

Clearly an abuse of due process.
Due process is the transparancy of the LAWS designed to govern us.

1005922 said...

Looks like I will have the pleasure of this pratt sometime soon then, the only stage they have got to is what to expect at court rubbish, I suppose I'm due a wonderful visit soon although it's been 7 months since I went licence free.