Courts jail 845 for not paying TV licence fines

Nick Cohen
Sunday 13 March 1994 01:02
Comments

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in