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Lawyer debunks whether you can actually go to prison for not paying your TV licence

Lawyer debunks whether you can actually go to prison for not paying your TV licence

The TV licence fee is set to rise by nearly 15 quid in April

A lawyer has revealed just how many people have been sent to jail for not paying their TV licence as the BBC prepares to bump up the price by £15 next year.

If you’ve logged on to watch Doctor Who recently or to binge Gavin and Stacey, you’re probably sick of being asked if you’ve got a TV licence.

It’s just another reminder of something else going out of your bank account. But you’ve got to pay it – we’ve all seen those adverts saying they’ll track us down otherwise.

And at the end of the day, as much as we all love a moan about the cost, we do get a pretty sweet deal for the spend - just remember that when the licence fee could rise by almost £15 in April.

It’s been frozen at £159 per year for the last two years but is currently expected to go up to £173.30 which culture secretary Lucy Frazer told BBC Breakfast would ‘absolutely’ be too much.

TV Licence fees are the main source of funding for BBC TV, radio and online services as well as allowing you to watch BBC iPlayer, regional and national channels.

However, paying it isn’t exactly everyone's cup of tea - some even make it a point of pride not to pay.

Just pay the fee lads.
Getty Stock Photo

Then there’s many more who watch and avoid paying in hope the TV licence police won't rock up at the door.

While the scary adverts make it sound like you'll be in all sorts of trouble for not paying, legal expert Nasir Hafezi (@tiktokstreetlawyer) has explained exactly what could happen and whether you could really end up in prison.

Hafezi said not paying your licence fee and watching anything live on any channel or streaming service was an offence.

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He added that you can get prosecuted for watching TV without a licence, so you could end up in court and potentially be fined as much as £1,000 for your transgression.

However, that’s not cold, hard jail time and Hafezi laid out that while you could technically go to prison for not paying your fee - it would be very unlikely.

Legal expert Nasir Hafezi explained how not paying your licence fee could lead to prison, but probably wouldn't.
Community Legal Education

To land yourself behind bars you'd need to have a 'refusal to pay the fine' and land yourself in a situation where 'all other enforcement methods have been tried'.

"In short, while you cannot go to prison for simply not paying your TV licence fee, you can go to prison if you deliberately refuse to pay the court fine," the lawyer summed up.

Digging into the figures behind the licence fee, Hafezi said that in 2017 there were 137,913 prosecutions over the TV licence and 72 percent of these were for women.

In that year, 30 percent of all women prosecuted were being done for not paying their TV licence, whereas only four percent of men getting in trouble in court were being nailed for non-payment.

Hafezi said this massive disparity was explained in part by women being more likely to be in when one of the TV licence people went to visit people's homes.

According to Full Fact, nobody in England and Wales was jailed for not paying their TV licence or dodging the resulting fine in 2020 or 2021, while in 2019 no more than two people were locked up.

Featured Image Credit: Community Legal Education/Getty Stock Photo

Topics: UK News, TV and Film, BBC, Crime, Money