During one of our regular trawls of cyberspace we recently came across an interesting conversation on Twitter.
Briefly, a student posted about their frustration at receiving yet another TV Licensing threatogram. As far as they were concerned they were correctly licensed to receive TV programmes in their rented property, by virtue of the fact the landlord had agreed to pay for the TV licence. They were annoyed that TV Licensing kept sending its menacing correspondence, when they had previously drawn the "error" to its attention.
It was at this point that alarm bells starting ringing. Had the landlord actually bought a TV licence for the property? What defence would the tenant have if caught receiving TV programmes in the unlicensed property?
In terms of the actual offence of TV licence evasion, they would have no defence at all.
TV licence evasion is an absolute (or strict liability) offence. That means the offence is committed whenever a person installs or uses equipment to receive TV programmes at an unlicensed property. They either did it or they didn't - there is no grey area in between. Their reasons for committing the offence are totally irrelevant, so they could be prosecuted even if they were blissfully unaware of the property's unlicensed status.
The student mentioned earlier would be liable for prosecution if caught committing the offence of TV licence evasion, although they could obviously mention their agreement with the landlord in mitigation. They could also take civil action if they had been left out of pocket (e.g. had to pay court fines) as a result of the landlord breaching the tenancy agreement (e.g. failing to buy a TV licence as promised). However, the civil courts could not overturn the student's criminal conviction for TV licence evasion, however unjust it might be.
In theory, any person with permission to be at an unlicensed property could be held liable for TV licence evasion there. In practise, TV Licensing will normally only prosecute a normal adult occupier of the property in question.
For further relevant information please see our earlier posts:
Of course all of these technicalities can be totally avoided by simply ignoring TV Licensing completely. Bin its letters as soon as they arrive and close the door immediately on its scummy operatives.
Even though it's the season of goodwill to all men, do not be lulled into trusting TV Licensing for one moment. In our opinion, which is borne out by years of experience, it is a thoroughly dishonest and unscrupulous organisation.
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