In August 2016 the media went into a frenzy when the National Audit Office published a report claiming that TV Licensing had the technology to detect online viewers without a valid TV licence.
Many commentators seized on the idea that the BBC had somehow developed technology that allowed it to "sniff" the packets of data being delivered to people's wireless networks.
Even if the BBC did possess such magical technology, the evidence gathered would in no way prove that an offence was being committed at the property where the wireless network was installed.
The BBC provided evidence to the National Audit Office to support its claims that unlicensed online viewers had been prosecuted in the same manner as those viewing unlicensed by conventional means.
Yesterday, in its response to a Freedom of Information request placed by WhatDoTheyKnow.com user Mr I. Hillas, the National Audit Office released some of the evidence the BBC had provided to help it prepare its report.
In particular, the BBC provided a paper trail of evidence demonstrating how a Polish immigrant convicted of TV licence evasion was "brought to justice".
The gentleman in question had been convicted of viewing a Polish TV channel online, but in common with every other TV Licensing conviction the case hinged on only one piece of evidence - the word of a goon that had visited his property. No packet sniffing, no data interception, no secretive surveillance - the conviction boiled down to claims made by a commission chasing Crapita foot soldier.
Having studied this case in detail, we again have serious concerns about the quality of evidence gathered by TV Licensing. There are glaring contradictions in TV Licensing's evidence, which any defence lawyer would have spotted and discredited within seconds.
According to the completed TVL178 form the goon claimed he was refused entry and did not see or hear any TV programmes, yet on the other hand he claimed to have inspected the Polish gentleman's Apple laptop and found evidence of Polish TV channels. Those two claims directly contradict each other.
Unfortunately the charges were "proven" in the absence of any plea by the defendant - in other words the court simply accepted TV Licensing's claim, highly implausible as that may have been, that an offence had been committed in the manner described.
Further evidence, as if any were needed, of the importance of defending any charges of TV licence evasion in court. Quite often TV Licensing's evidence just doesn't pass muster.
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