Questions are again being raised about the honesty of TV Licensing during the prosecution process.
On Monday we reported the case of Hannah, who had appeared before Burton-on-Trent Magistrates' Court on charges of obstructing a TV Licensing search warrant.
Hannah, 39, was convicted of the offence and received a 12 month conditional discharge. She was also ordered to pay £200 towards TV Licensing's prosecution costs and the £15 victim surcharge.
Hannah's case was by no means as clear cut as The Burton Mail, the local newspaper, would have readers believe. The third-rate daily has taken great delight in publishing her full name and address on no less than three separate occasions, but has omitted to mention key aspects of the defence case.
In theory a search warrant should only be granted when a Justice of the Peace or District Judge is satisfied that it is both necessary and proportionate. It is only necessary if TV Licensing has been unable to obtain voluntary access to the property and there is little prospect of being able to do so in the future; it is only proportionate if TV Licensing has credible evidence that an offence (e.g. unlicensed TV reception) is being, or has been, committed at the property and immediate, unhindered access is required to secure that evidence.
TV Licensing should never have been able to obtain a warrant, because it could never have obtained credible evidence that unlicensed TV reception was, or had been, taking place at Hannah's property. That evidence cannot exist, as Hannah does not receive TV programmes and hasn't done since her last TV licence expired. That is borne out by the fact that TV Licensing's search of the property found no evidence whatsoever of unlicensed TV reception.
This latest case appears yet another example of TV Licensing playing the system in order to obtain a warrant it would not ordinarily be entitled to.
Instead of leaving Hannah's property empty-handed and reeking of incompetence, TV Licensing fell back on the consolation prize of an obstruction charge.
We reiterate our advice that in the exceptionally rare event that TV Licensing do appear with a search warrant, the occupier should allow them immediately and unhindered access. If they don't, then even if the search draws a blank there is the realistic prospect of being pursued on an obstruction charge.
For more information about TV Licensing search warrants, please see our article "TV Licensing Search Warrants: Prevention Better than Cure".