TV Licence and Court fines
This particular page of our Bailiff Advice website receives more views than any other page. This is not surprising given that TV Licence court fines account for over 10% of all criminal prosecutions with 3,500 cases being heard each week in the Magistrates Court.
How does the BBC know whether I require a TV licence?
The BBC contract with a private company called Capita Business Services Ltd (using the BBC trade mark “TV Licensing”) to collect TV Licenses. Last year, Capita sent approx 21 million reminder letters. If you fail to pay following a reminder, an Enquiry Officer (employed by Capita) will make an unannounced visit to your home. Astonishingly, last year 3.8 million such visits were made…many of them on a Sunday !!
Do I have to let a TV licence Enquiry Officer into my home?
Enquiry officers do not have any legal powers to enter your home. Instead, they (like other members of the public) rely on an ‘implied right in common law’ to call at a property and to knock at the door. Enquiry officers must explain the purpose of their visit. However…. it is important to know that you have no obligation at all to allow the Enquiry Officer entry into your home and if you ask him to leave, he must do so immediately.
What will happen if I let the TV licence Enquiry Officer into my home?
If the TV Licensing Enquiry Agent visits he will ask a set of questions to whoever answers the door and they should enquire whether the person is an “appropriate person” to interview ( ie: an adult who lives in the house). They will be trying to find out if that person has been viewing a TV without a licence. If they suspect that this is the case, he has a duty to caution the individual concerned of their legal rights before taking a Prosecution Statement/Record of Interview and he will then ask the interviewee to sign it. If it is decided to prosecute, this document will form the basis of prosecution evidence. It is important to be aware that there is no legal obligation to provide a statement to the Enquiry Officer.
It is not uncommon to hear reports of people “volunteering ” to pay the TV Licensing Agent a sum of money to purchase a licence during such a visit. If payment is accepted the Enquiry Agent will make it clear that this payment does not prejudice any subsequent prosecution case (e.g. even if the occupier pays for the licence, they could still be prosecuted for the offence).
For the Prosecution Statement the Enquiry Agent will want to know personal details (name, address etc) and details as to whether the individual is “vulnerable” (out of work, on benefits, single parent or in receipt of ESA or DLA etc) or whether employed.
Will I need to go to Court?
You do not have to attend court but you must ensure that you respond to the summons/Single Justice Procedure notice and complete and return the Means Enquiry Form/Statement of Means (MC100).
If TV Licensing decide to take you to court, this will be in the Magistrates Court and they must present their case to the court within 180 days (6 months) of the date of the offence. This will normally be the date on which the Prosecution Statement (TVL 178) was signed. If this deadline is missed, the case cannot proceed.
Capita TV Licensing bring the prosecution on behalf of the BBC and will provide the court with the name and address of the defendant as given on the Prosecution Statement (TVL 178). The court will then send the summons /Single Justice Procedure notice to that person and the case will normally be scheduled to be considered in the Magistrates Court approx 4-6 weeks after this. Sadly, from a great number of enquiries on this subject, the fact remains, that barely anyone bothers to either respond to the summons /Single Justice Procedure notice or to complete the attached Means Enquiry Form (MC100). To demonstrate this, we received notification recently of a court hearing where 37 cases were considered by the Magistrates. None of the debtors attended the hearing but more seriously, only 2 debtors responded to the summons and submitted a Means Enquiry Form!!
We cannot stress upon anyone reading this page the importance of responding to the summons or Single Justice Procedure notice and completing the Means Enquiry Form. The reason is outlined in detail on a separate page here.
How much is the fine for using a TV without a licence?
In April 2017, the Sentencing Council overhauled TV Licence court fines. This page reflects the updated position. Almost all TV Licence court fines will range from Band A to Band B.
Your TV licence court fine will be set as a percentage of your ‘Relevant Weekly Income’ (RWI). For example; if you are on a low income or on benefits, your RWI will usually be calculated as being £120 per week.
In the absence of any financial information (usually where a Means Enquiry Form/Statement of Means (MC100) has not been submitted), the court can proceed to set the level of fine by ‘assuming’ that your ‘relevant weekly income’ is £440 per week.
Relevant weekly income (RWI) is explained in more detail on the Sentencing Council website here.
TV Licence fine Band A:
RWI (Relevant weekly income) of £120 per week:
Fine £60 without a guilty plea or £40 with a guilty plea
RWI (Relevant weekly income) of £440 PW
Fine £220 without a guilty plea or £146 with a guilty plea
TV Licence fine Band B:
RWI (Relevant weekly income) of £120 per week:
Fine £120 without a guilty plea or £80 with a guilty plea
RWI (Relevant weekly income) of £440 per week:
Fine £440 without a guilty plea or £290 with a guilty plea
In addition to the fine, you will also be ordered to pay Prosecution costs which on average are approx £120 and Victims Surcharge which is calculated at 10% of the fine with a minimum of £30
TV Licence fine…I did not receive a summons.
There can be many reasons for this. For example, TV licensing have 6 months in which to “lay the complaint” at the Magistrates Court and in that time, many people may have moved address, relationships/marriages may have broken down and post may have gone astray. If you had not received a Summons/Single Justice Procedure notice, then consideration can be given to completing a Statutory Declaration. If accepted, all enforcement of the court fine will cease. If you had been unaware of the court fine, please read here .
The procedure for applying for a Statutory Declaration is outlined here.
Commentary from Bailiff Advice Online
If you have received a letter from either Marston Group Ltd, Collectica Ltd, Swift Credit Services or Excel Enforcement Ltd in relation to a court fine or, if you require guidance with a Statutory Declaration, you can email a question to us using our Enquiry Form. Alternatively, you can contact our helpline. Details are on our Contact page.
A simple overview of the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 can be read here.