One hundred and sixty six prosecutions for TV licence evasion were either dropped or thrown out in Londonderry in 2014, according to figures uncovered by an anti-licence fee campaigner who believes it’s “a disgrace to even prosecute one person for the sake of making television.”
Caroline Levesque-Bartlett, has discovered that of 561 such cases taken against suspected licence fee evaders in Londonderry resulted in 395 convictions.
Mrs Levesque-Bartlett believes that’s too many and claims women are disproportionately affected by suits.
“Results from a Freedom of Information Requests shows that most of Northern Irish evaders are located in Belfast,” she said.
“More surprisingly, is the fact that 70 per cent of them are females.
“This 30 per cent-70 per cent male/female ratio observed in Northern Ireland, is at odd with statistics for other small crimes, but is pretty much the same across the whole of UK for this crime.
“It is not clear if women are more targeted by TV licence officers, but, statistically, they are more likely to be at home during day time, taking care of children for example.
“Women might also be more trusting and willing to sort out their TV licence when prompted, ending up being the victims of this system,” she said.
Mrs Levesque-Bartlett claims the very large number of ‘unsuccessful’ prosecutions brought “lends weight to the view that cases are initiated on a speculative basis.”
Her full findings are that 4,905 people were prosecuted in Northern Ireland in 2014; 1,469 of them live in Belfast; 70 per cent offenders are females; 1,286 people were wrongly prosecuted last year; the average fine is £170; and, until early 2013, over 200 people used to be imprisoned each year for this offence.
She has launched an online petition, signed by over 160,000 people, calling for a debate on the future of the licence fee.