Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
6 July 2010
Dear Mr Clegg,
TV Licensing – change of enforcement procedure
As a magistrate, I would like to suggest a modest reform to the criminal justice system which would save public money and free up valuable court time.
When TV Licensing detect people using an unlicensed TV set, they are currently brought to court. Almost none attend the court hearing, and their cases are routinely proved in absence in a procedure which wastes the time of everyone involved.
I would submit that people using unlicensed TV sets should be issued with an on-the-spot Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) by the TV Licensing officer who detects the offence. Those who fail to pay within the prescribed period would face similar enforcement action to those who fail to settle PCN parking fines. An Adjudicator could deal with any appeals, diverting the whole process away from the Adult Criminal Courts.
This would be quicker, cheaper, simpler and also less stressful for those defendants who have genuinely forgotten to renew their licence, or thought that someone else in the house had done it.
I hope you and the Justice Secretary will be able to take this idea on board and find Parliamentary time for implementing it — hopefully with all-party support.
With best regards
Alan Hayman JP
HMCS North-East Essex
Why is this idea important?
1. The budget of the Ministry of Justice in England and Wales is under heavy pressure, and areas where money and time are currently being wasted (see above) need to be investigated. This will free up resources for saving court-houses threatened with closure, thus preserving the important principle of locally administered justice.
2. Treating people as criminals when they fail to buy a valid TV licence is disproportionate and oppressive. For this reason it is questionable whether the issue of warrants for TV Licensing Officers to enter private dwellings to search for evidence is compliant with the Human Rights Act. If the whole process was transferred from the criminal to the civil arena, it would command more public confidence and be much more resistant to challenge under the HRA.
3. Magistrates are volunteers whose work in the Courts saves the MoJ millions of pounds which would otherwise have to be spent on stipendiary District Judges. I know of nothing that demoralises this force of volunteers more than being given futile, repetitive and unnecessary tasks – a list headed by court TV Licence enforcement.