The BBC has explained the methodology behind TV Licensing's claimed "99 percent conviction rate".
You might recall that we have some reservations about the 99 percent claim when we know, as a matter of fact, that only about half the people TV Licensing accuse of evading the TV licence fee are actually convicted by the court.
BBC Freedom of Information Advisor Rupinder Panesar has just provided the following figures and justification for TV Licensing's impressive conviction rate:
Figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (although he forgot to give the timeframe):
Cases heard: 193,678
Cases withdrawn: 26,126
Found not guilty: 32
Mr Panesar goes on to explain: "Of the cases heard, only 32 defendants were found not guilty and therefore the 99% conviction rate is derived by comparing the number of cases heard minus the number of cases withdrawn and comparing this to the number of convictions."
Here's an equally valid interpretation of the data: 193,678 people turned up to court thinking they were about to stand toe-to-toe with TV Licensing, but only 167,552 of them actually did. TV Licensing said to the other 26,126 <irony>"we're really sorry for inflicting months of stress on you and dragging you miles to court today, but we've decided we're not going to prosecute after all".</irony> Of the 167,552 that actually ended up in the dock, all but 32 of those were convicted of TV licence evasion.
Alternatively, 99% of the 87% of cases TV Licensing followed-through at court resulted in a conviction.
We think that's a more genuine representation of TV Licensing's statistics - not that genuinity is of much concern to TV Licensing.
The 26,126 withdrawn cases are of great interest to us. As Mr Panesar suggests, a significant proportion of those are what TV Licensing would consider first time "evaders". As we've previously mentioned, TV Licensing has a policy whereby it will normally give an alleged first time evader a chance to avoid prosecution if they buy a TV licence and keep up with the payments. However, in our opinion a significant proportion of the withdrawn cases are speculative prosecutions that TV Licensing has decided to quietly kill before exposing to judicial scrutiny.
Speculative prosecution is described on our Glossary page thus: "The fairly regular situation where the TV Licensing Needlecraft Division (Prosecution Team) has a person summoned to court on the basis of often inadequate (occasionally non-existent) evidence, on the assumption that most of them won't respond or contest the charges."
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