More than two-thirds of those convicted of TV licence evasion are women, according to shocking statistics reported by The Times yesterday.
Talk show presenter Petrie Hosken took the opportunity to discuss the story on her LBC Radio show yesterday. The segment was broadcast in the final hour of the show, between 12 noon and 1 pm.
Having listened closely to the show, there are a couple of points we'd like to begin by clarifying:
- The maximum fine (not minimum, as mentioned by Petrie) for TV licence evasion is £1,000. The BBC is very keen to publicise this maximum figure, but when the Sentencing Guidelines are taken into consideration most of those convicted receive a much lower fine. Magistrates do have some flexibility when it comes to the level of fine they impose, although as an indication we consider that most first time offenders will receive a fine of around £150 (if employed) or £50 (if unemployed/on benefits). Even in the most severe of cases, where a person has several previous convictions for TV licence fee evasion, we have never known a fine in excess of £500. The vast majority of those convicted would also have to pay a contribution towards TV Licensing's prosecution costs, which currently stands at £120. Anyone receiving a fine would also have to pay the victim surcharge, which currently stands at the greater of £20 or 10% of the fine value.
- A person cannot be imprisoned for TV licence evasion. As mentioned above, the maximum penalty is a £1,000 fine. Those people ending up in prison, are there for the separate offence of non-payment of fines.
- A TV licence is only needed for those properties where equipment is used to receive TV programmes, regardless of the channel they are broadcast on. Petrie mistakenly claimed, on several occasions, that a TV licence was only needed to watch programmes on BBC channels.
- A TV licence is not needed merely to own or possess such equipment, contrary to the opinion of caller Dave in New Cross.
Some key quotes from Petrie's show:
Petrie: "I want to talk about the persecution of non-licence fee payers when it comes to the BBC."
Petrie: "Last year 32 people were sent to prison for failing to pay a TV licence bill. Unbelievable. When you hear on a regular basis that burglars, muggers and seriously bad people get community service after 30 or 40 things are taken into account in court - people are still going to prison for not paying their licence fee. What a waste of money."
Petrie: "The latest figures also expose the time and cost to the taxpayer of prosecuting the crime. TV licence cases accounted for 1 in 10 of all cases in the Magistrates' Court in England and Wales, with more than 3,000 cases a week going to the Magistrates' Court."
Petrie: "How can it be a criminal offence, ending up with a prison sentence, to not pay to watch your telly?"
Mick (on the Isle of Wight): "The BBC employs a company called Capita, who are like bully boys."
Mick (on the Isle of Wight): "If you go onto YouTube and type in 'TV Licence Goons' there's loads and loads of videos. People are uploading videos all the time. If they knock on your door, the first thing you want to do is record them. They don't like being recorded. They will ask you to put your camera down, but you've got every right to film in a public place. Not all the time, but I guess 8 times out of 10, they'll walk away because they don't want to be put on YouTube."
Petrie: "There can't be anybody, in the world, who believes that this should be a criminal offence?"
Claire (on the Isle of Wight): "I see the TV licence as a forced purchase."
Claire (on the Isle of Wight): "The BBC, like a bunch of fascists, are basically forcing us to purchase their product. I think it's totally wrong."
John (in Knebworth): "I find it quite appalling that the Queen and her representatives could put you in jail for something so daft."
Ian (in Edgware): "This is one of the best subjects I think you've ever done. I think the BBC and their licence system is disgusting."
Ian (in Edgware): "I'd like to see the BBC redone as an opt-in service. And if it was an opt-in service, I can assure you that I would opt-out of it."
Mark (in Sittingbourne): "I'm a spokesman for TV Licence Resistance, which is kind of an informal organisation opposed to the licence and the way that it's enforced."
Petrie: "Surely it is time to decriminalise TV licence evasion."
Paul (in Enfield): "Prison is over-populated and there's a shortage of staff. To not pay your TV licence and end up with a criminal record - you're ruining people's lives."
Paul (in Enfield): "I don't understand why people should be forced to pay for something they don't watch."
Herbie (in Harrow): "The BBC is a great organisation, but how many people would pay for the repeats that we get year in and year out? And for those plush offices that they've got? You know, we're paying for their extravagence and we get no entertainment."
Christina (in Amersham):"My entertainment is LBC, books and my dog. The only reason I pay for a TV licence is my husband, but he certainly isn't watching the BBC."
Jason (in Bushey): "Just over a year ago I got a letter from them. We we're paying by Direct Debit and we missed a payment, so we got a threatening letter threatening to take us to court. I got so annoyed I threw out the Freeview box."
John (in Barnet): "I retired as a Magistrate 6 years ago, after 20 years in inner London. When I was interviewed, before I was appointed, I was asked if there was anything I'd like to change in relation to the law. The first thing I said was we should decriminalise TV licence evasion. I have never changed my views over the years. I don't think it should be an offence. Not even a civil offence."