Daytime licence checks 'hit women and poor'

THE National Heritage Committee was 'deeply troubled by the impact of the licence fee on those on lower incomes'. It regrets that families in poverty bear a disproportionate burden.

It was particularly concerned by evidence from the Justices' Clerks' Society which found that 'since the majority of surveillance appears to be undertaken during daytime hours, it is often women who are prosecuted. Single-parent families seem particularly at risk.' It found 72 per cent of those prosecuted for non-payment were women, four times the number of women in relation to all offences.

The committee recommends that where lack of means is clearly the reason why the television licence has not been paid, criminal action should not be pursued.

Gerald Kaufman, the committee chairman, said too many of the women being prosecuted were desperate cases.

'We're saying to the BBC, 'Look chums, is it really a good idea for you to take a lone mother on income support to court for non-payment? Show a little simple humanity in these cases'.'

Asked whether this did not mean he was advocating turning a blind eye to crime, Mr Kaufman said that not all contraventions of law were chased up.

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