Nearly three-quarters of TV Licensing criminal convictions in the UK last year were secured against women, according to data gathered by an anti-Telly Tax campaigner.
Of the 184,595 people across the UK charged with non-payment of the TV Licence by Capita TV Licensing, 21,300 were found not guilty – and 90 people were jailed for failing to pay court-issued fines. The figure for charges includes out-of-court disposals.
140,000 of those charged were taken to court, where an astonishing 101,000 women were found guilty. TV Licence evasion cases used to be heard before magistrates’ courts, sitting with a panel of between one and three magistrates. But since Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service introduced the Single Justice system, they are now reviewed by a single magistrate reviewing the court papers, not in full court. (The defendant does have the option of appearing in court to contest their case before a panel of magistrates should they wish.)
Although the number of women found guilty declined slightly – last year 107,000 were given a criminal record for failing to pay money to the BBC – as a proportion of the total number prosecuted, it was up by almost one percentage point, from 2015’s 70.8 per cent to 71.9 per cent.
Cleveland topped the charts for the number of suspected evaders, where Capita has nearly 29,000 suspects on its books. Warwickshire beat London into second place with 24,000 evaders, against the capital’s 19,000 suspected Telly Tax deniers. A Daily Mail investigation last year discovered that Capita operates TV Licensing as a high-pressure sales operation, with door-to-door salespeople being offered large bonuses for getting people to sign up to the £147/yr licence.
Eleven per cent of TV Licensing prosecutions in 2016 resulted in the defendant being found not guilty.
“This number of unsuccessful prosecutions lends weight to the view that cases are initiated on a speculative basis,” said Caroline Levesque-Bartlett, who gathered the data using Freedom of Information laws. A 2012 study found that one in ten of all criminal prosecutions in England and Wales were brought by Capita TV Licensing, which enforces the Telly Tax on behalf of the BBC.
The TV Licence funds the BBC, including its all-dominant news empire. Failure to pay the Telly Tax, which is payable if you watch live TV or stream BBC iPlayer online, is a criminal offence.
Earlier this year The Register analysed three months of prosecution data from the City of London magistrates’ court and found that Capita disproportionately targeted women for TV Licensing prosecutions. At the time the firm told us: “The government’s own independent review of TV licence fee enforcement found no evidence to suggest that activity is unfairly and intentionally targeted at women.”
The Perry Review referred to by Capita found that 70 per cent of Telly Tax prosecutions in 2014 targeted women, while 68 per cent of fines issued in the same year were handed to women. ®
Updated to add
A spokesperson for TV Licensing got back to us to say it ain't done nothing wrong, adding: "An independent review of licence fee enforcement said the TV Licensing system is broadly fair and proportionate and found no evidence to suggest enforcement is unfairly targeted at women.
“We would always prefer people buy a licence rather than be prosecuted. When TV Licensing visits an unlicensed property, a statement is taken from any responsible adult who answers the door," he added.