In the Media

Thousands in court every week for not having a TV licence

PUBLISHED March 20, 2012

One in 10 magistrates' court hearings is now taken up with the offence, which appears more than any other crime.

A total of 140,000 people were convicted of avoiding the licence fee last year, giving them a criminal record and in some cases, those who failed to pay the fine were handed a prison sentence.

But magistrates said the rising number of cases should be dealt with by other means over concerns that evaders were being given disproportionate sentences.

A spokesman for the Magistrates' Association told the Daily Mail: "For almost 20 years we have been calling for changes in the law so that non-payment of TV licences is decriminalised.

"It had been hoped that perhaps a change might be brought about when the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting was completed but as yet there are no plans for the BBC to move to a subscription."

Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed licence fee fines totalled almost £25 million in 2010, up from £16.5 million in 2007.

A TV Licensing spokesman said: "On behalf of the majority who pay, we will prosecute evaders. The estimated evasion rate has remained steady, at a low of around

five per cent, for the last five years.

"TV Licence evasion cases may account for one in ten cases, but they take up a very small proportion of court time as few people attend court."