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MA responds to launch of consultation on decriminalising TV licence evasion

MA in the media


24 February 2020
MA responds to launch of consultation on decriminalising TV licence evasion

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has launched a consultation on whether the government should proceed with plans to decriminalise TV licence evasion and to replace the criminal offence with an alternative civil enforcement scheme.

MA National Chair John Bache JP appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the day of the consultation’s launch to discuss the impact these cases have on magistrates’ courts. He explained that while there are a high number of cases (approximately 130,000 in 2018) and they amount to about 10% of all cases dealt with in magistrates' courts, they are dealt with very quickly and often under the single justice procedure, meaning that they take less than 1% of the magistrates’ courts sitting time.

Following news of the consultation, the Huffington Post spent a day in Blackburn Magistrates’ Court witnessing cases where people had failed to pay the licence fee. John Bache spoke to the news outlet, welcoming the public consultation on behalf of the MA and adding that ‘It is concerning that, in 2018, 72 percent of non-payment cases involved a female defendant. We would call for more research to better understand and address this proportionality.’

He also clarified the current law around the topic, adding that ‘It is important to note that an individual will not be sent to prison for licence evasion itself, but only for willful non-payment of the ensuing fine, and prison is treated by sentencers as a last resort.’

The MA will be responding to the consultation and has invited the view of its members.
 

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