Not guilty verdicts rise to 20 per cent for TV licensing prosecutions

Caroline Levesque-Bartlett

Figures obtained under a freedom of information request have revealed that the number of people found not guilty of avoiding the TV license fee has risen to 20 per cent in Scotland over last year’s figures.

The data was obtained by anti-TV license campaigner, Caroline Levesque-Bartlett.

They show that in Scotland there were 8,638 fewer out of court disposals for 2014-2015 than in the previous year, a 64 per cent decrease.

There was an almost complete reshuffle in the regional order, with only Glasgow retaining its original position.

Most local authorities saw their number of out-of-court disposals fall by at least half.

The main exceptions are South Lanarkshire which saw a seven per cent increase (jumping from from 8th position to 2nd) and Clackmannanshire, where one more out-of-court disposal accounted for a leap from 20th to 11th position.

Glasgow had 1,973 fewer out of court disposals last year (a 58 per cent decrease).

North Lanarkshire saw 1,569 fewer out of court disposals (a 82 per cent decrease), causing it to drop from 2nd to 4th position.

Fife went from 1,346 out of court disposals to 493 (a 63 per cent decrease - yet it remains in 3rd position).

Edinburgh had 867 fewer out of court disposals last year (a 77 per cent decrease).

In 2013-2014, 32 people were brought to court in Scotland, compared to 15 last year (a 53 per cent decrease).

And the proportion of people found not guilty has increased, going from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

Mrs Levesque-Bartlett said: “Combined data for out of court disposal and court prosecution suggest that TV Licensing is not actively pursuing Scottish evaders due to the lower chance of prosecution and lower revenue from fines. Considering that the prosecution levels in the rest of the UK have remained static or increased this maybe a sign that TV licensing is focusing its resources there. This appears to be especially true for Wales.”

She added: “This year is special, we are celebrating 70 years of government endorsed extortion. Since June 1946, no one was able to think of a way of funding the BBC that would not involve a choice, for those who want to opt out, between withholding all TV channels and criminal sanctions. On the contrary, the BBC’s power to charge and barge in to homes has been recently extended to cover the internet. The mind boggles.”

She added: ”With a newly appointed Secretary of State, maybe we can hope for some change to the Royal Charter before it’s officially agreed in December 2016. The reality of facing statistics like these for a further ten years should be in the least a little concerning for a progressive society like the UK.”