Courts jail 845 for not paying TV licence fines

THE BBC and Home Office faced sustained criticism after the Prison Service revealed yesterday that 845 people were jailed last year for not having a television licence.

MPs and prison governors said it was 'absolutely crazy' to lock up licence fee dodgers in overcrowded jails. They called on BBC governors to seek other remedies and said Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, must act.

In 1991, the first year in which figures were collected, 394 people were jailed (136 of them women) for failing to pay the fine - a maximum of pounds 1,000 - imposed by magistrates for having television without an pounds 83 licence. Last year, 845 (including 292 women) were imprisoned. The typical sentence was 14 days.

Alun Michael, the Labour home affairs spokesman, said it was absurd to treat the non-payment of a television licence like a criminal offence. The BBC's television licensing unit should act like any other creditor, seeking to have non-payers' goods seized or income docked by the civil courts. 'Even Mr Howard must realise that it's a huge waste of public money locking these people up,' he said. It costs about pounds 500 a week to keep a prisoner in jail. Conservative Alan Howarth, who helped write a Commons National Heritage Select Committee report on the future of the BBC last year, said the figures were 'disturbing' and called for consideration to be given to subsiding the licence fees of the poor.

The Prison Governors' Association, which warned last week that overcrowding could 'plunge the jails into chaos', added that they had enough problems without having to cope with people who had not paid fines.

Although women are 3 per cent of the prison population, they are a third of the jailed licence evaders. Harry Fletcher, from the National Association of Probation Officers, said: 'Often it is the women who have to run household budgets and face the consequences when money runs short. Jail for a woman who has to worry about her children can be devastating.'

A spokeswoman for the television licensing unit said the BBC did not accept responsibility; its administrators helped present cases, but magistrates decided on sentences.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits