Television: Licensing

Justice written question – answered on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many persons were (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted of offences related to failure to purchase a television licence in each year since 1997.

Photo of Claire Ward Claire Ward Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

The number of persons proceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for TV licence evasion in England and Wales 1997 to 2008 (latest available) can be viewed in the table.

Court data for 2009 are planned for publication in the autumn, 2010.

Number of persons p roceeded against at magistrates courts and found guilty at all courts for television licence evasion( 1, 2) , England and Wales, 1997 to 2008( 3, 4)
1997 1998 1999 2000( 5) 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008( 6)
Proceeded against 92,728 96,616 68,778 120,626 96,471 110,160 93,897 106,435 122,923 130,019 135,508 134,518
Found guilty 76,984 76,605 55,813 105,318 83,739 96,589 79,856 89,240 104,930 115,470 120,874 120,785
(1) For 1997 to 2007 as well as television licence evasion, these data include proceedings for summary offences under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 to 1967.

(2) For 2007 and 2008 these figures relate to the offence Television Licence evasion - Communications Act 2003.

(3) The figures given in the table relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.

(4) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

(5) Staffordshire police force were only able to submit sample data for persons proceeded against and convicted in the magistrates' courts for the year 2000. Although sufficient to estimate higher orders of data, these data are not robust enough at a detailed level and have been excluded from the table.

(6) Excludes data for Cardiff magistrates' court for April, July, and August 2008.


Wireless Telegraphy Act offences (mainly television licence evasion) prosecutions increased by 75 per cent from 1999 to 2000. These figures fluctuate from year to year depending on the level and manner of enforcement by the licensing authorities. The increase in prosecutions in 2000 was largely due to changes in visiting practices so that enforcement visits to households took place at times when TV was more likely to be watched.


Justice Statistics Analytical Services in the Ministry of Justice

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