A CONFESSION AND AN APOLOGY.
Some years ago I worked as a TV Licensing Enforcement Officer (EO). What follows is advice and information from the inside for the benefit of the wider community.
When a TV License ‘Visiting Officer’ calls at an address where there is no record of a license, He/She has several objectives.
The first is database cleansing. There are so many corrupt entries on their database of 27 Million addresses that they will never properly clean it.
GET THE MONEY. The second (but primary) purpose is Revenue collection. When TV Licensing was in the public sector and run by the Post Office, ‘evasion’ was stable at about eight per cent. When TV Licensing was privatized and operated by the corporation known as Capita, ‘evasion’ dropped to six per cent in the first twelve months. One year later it was four per cent.
GET THE NAME. When a TV Licensing Enforcement Officer visits an unlicensed address his/her first question is:
‘Do you live here?”
Once an admission of residence is obtained the Enforcement Officer has to get the Name. A simple ploy is to declare something like:
‘I have a letter for you but I need to make sure I deliver to the correct person. Can you tell me your name please?’
IDENTIFY YOURSELF. Only after getting the Name will an Enforcement Officer identify her/himself. At this point He/She will start to complete a written record of ‘The Prosecution Interview.’ This is the ‘Contemporaneous Record’ that will be referred to in court. Then he (or she) has to get admission of use of the television. Frequently, it may be seen through the window so denial is implausible. Once admission of use is declared it is immediately followed by:
THE FIRST CAUTION “You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?”
THE INSPECTION. Then the Enforcement Officer will ask if He/She may come in to inspect the TV. He/She may start walking in as He/She asks the question, presuming a positive response on your part. He/She may only enter if invited in by you.
Once inside the Enforcement Officer only needs to confirm that the TV is available for use. For this He/She will ask you to switch the television on. (This avoids any possible allegation of the Enforcement Officer damaging the TV). If ANY amount of broadcast picture is visible or ANY amount of broadcast sound is audible, that is all that is needed to establish the precedent ‘ Available to watch.’ (If no aerial is connected, a picture or sound may be obtained by putting a pen in the old analogue aerial socket).
THE SECOND CAUTION. Once usage is established, the Enforcement Officer will continue to record the make and model of the television, and the channel and programme seen. The prosecution interview is terminated by the second caution which is:
‘I have to tell you that you may be prosecuted for an offense under the Communications Act 2005. Is there anything you want to say?’ This second caution is important because it gives you the opportunity to mount your defense.
SIGNATURES. You will be invited to sign the document. The Enforcement Officer will sign the document and a carbon copy will be left with you. Then the interview is finished.
You will be then be offered options to pay. Payment in full by cash, credit card, Debit card; Annual, Quarterly or Monthly direct debit. If you have no bank account you may pay by monthly or weekly cash account at any PayPoint.
SEARCH WARRANTS. The use of a search warrant may only be invoked where the Enforcement Officer has reasonable belief that An unlicensed TV is in use. For this there needs to be two pieces of evidence. The presence of an aerial and sight of a TV listings magazine for example.
In 2006/2007 Enforcement Officer's were instructed by TVL management that they had to submit not less than one application for a search warrant each month. This was because so few warrants had been applied for, that they were in danger of losing that facility. I was subjected to bullying by the management to achieve this target even though in four years service I never had reason to apply for even one.
REBUTTALS. If anyone knocks on your door and starts asking questions about who you are and do you live here, there is no reason for you to answer him/her. When asked, a TV Licensing officer MUST produce his/her identity document. The one response that will stop an Enforcement Officer is:
‘I’m the babysitter.”
NOTA BENE. Even a short term visitor with a one night stop over may be subjected to an interview under caution and be liable to pay for the license. And be liable to prosecution. So for your own protection:
QUESTIONS QUESTIONS. Do not answer any questions. The best response to a question is another question such as:
‘Why is that important to you?’ And remember, the person who asks the most questions controls the conversation. And above all, DO NOT allow any access to your property.
ONE MORE THING. Please remember that these people are human beings too. They do what they do for the same reasons we do what we do. To keep a roof over their heads. To put food on the table and to clothe their children.
They just don’t know the difference between the person that they are and the Legal Fiction they hear every day.
They too should be treated with courtesy and respect. We have the opportunity to be Ambassadors for every Free Man/Woman On The Land. We have the opportunity to awaken and educate those who stand under the ‘Authority’ of the TV Licensing Company (Capita). Be evangelists. Waken these sleeping children so that together we can help all men and women become Free.