The following findings are backed by Freedom of Information requests
TV licence evasion is not punishable by a period of imprisonment per se. It’s only when convicted evaders refuse to pay the fine they were ordered to pay, or are incapable of paying it, that a period of imprisonment may be imposed as a “last resort”. That one degree of separation is a bit meaningless tough because if you oppose to the TV licence, you will oppose paying the fine too.
Considering that 38 people were given an average of 25 days for fine default in relation to TV licence offences in England and Wales in 2015, each stay is likely to have cost tax payers close to £2,275. If we add the 57 prison stints in Northern Ireland, it means over £100k was wasted in the process of recovering fines worth around £16k. And that’s on top of all the other expenses. Collection fees alone are over £100M. Jailing people for TV licence fines is literally throwing good money after bad.
|Year||Number of defendants committed to prison
for TV licence fine default
|England and Wales||Northern Ireland||Scotland||Total|
* One person in N. Ireland had two separate periods of custody for non-payment of TV licence.
- There is a sharp increase of people jailed for TV licence fine default since 2013 (nearly twice as many)
- Northern Ireland has taken a backward step by restoring a policy of custodial sentence for TV licence fine default (a Judicial Review led to a temporary suspension of fine defaulters being sent to prison)
The length of stay is decided by the amount owed. This, however, is an all-round lose/lose situation: the BBC gains nothing in the way of monies and it costs the tax payer an average of £91 per day to keep one person behind bars. This estimate is based on a disclosure from the Ministry of Justice that it costs £33,291 per annum to house a UK prisoner. MoJ Costs per place and costs per prisoner 2014-2015
|Length of sentence|
|England & Wales||Northern Ireland|
|2012||22 days*||3 to 28 days|
|2013||24 days*||7 to 14 days|
|2014||20 days*||7 days|
|2015||25 days*||8.5 days* awarded but 3.1 days* spent|
- sentences in England and Wales are at least 3 times longer than in Northern Ireland.
|Year||Gender distribution in England and Wales|
- The number of women committed to prison in England and Wales has nearly doubled last year.
- Women account for 52.6% of people jailed for TV licence fine default in England and Wales
|Year||Gender distribution in Northern Ireland|
- Women account for 45.6% of people jailed for TV licence fine default in Northern Ireland.
|Age distribution in England and Wales|
|21 – 24||≤2||≤2|
|25 – 29||3||≤2|
|30 – 39||3||7|
|40 – 49||9||7|
|50 – 59||≤2||5|
These data were collected by anti-TV licence campaigner Caroline Levesque-Bartlett.
Her petition End the BBC Licence Fee has been signed by over 210,000 people.
2015 at a glance
200,117 people charged for TV licence offences in 2015
|TV Licence Prosecutions & out of court disposal, 2015|
|TV Licence convictions Per Gender, 2015|
|Percentage of women||70.8%||68.6%||70.9%||71%||70.5%|
*including out of court disposals
|TV Licence unnecessary prosecutions, 2015|
*excluding out of court disposal
- There has been a slight increase in the overall number of unsuccessful cases brought to court (from 12.6% to 12.8%). 2014 boasted 24,025 unsuccessful cases and a total of 190,532 prosecutions.
- It is a burden on the State to bring 1 in 8 to court unnecessarily in England.
- Northern Ireland’s rate is simply unacceptable (1 in 3)