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Almost 11,500 people in court for not paying TV licence

The maximum fine for a first offence in the case of non-payment of a TV licence is €1,000.

Image: Brandon King via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE NUMBER OF people taken to court for not paying the €160 television licence fee has doubled since 2008.

Almost 11,500 cases were heard in Irish courtrooms last year, according to figures given to an Oireachtas committee recently. Five years ago, the corresponding figure was just 5,786 but it has risen significantly each year since.

Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Aidan Dunning, told the Public Accounts Committee that the decline in the number of licences issued could be attributed to the economic downturn and “rapidly-evolving technologies whereby members of the public are no longer reliant on the traditional television set”.

During 2012, just over one million licences were sold directly by An Post, the collection agency for the fee. A further 405,000 were issued by the Department of Social Protection.

Dunning said every effort is made to bring evaders into the licensed pool, adding that a “considerable amount” of An Post’s time and resources is spent dealing with the issue.

Prosecutions are brought on foot of a visit by a TV licence inspector to an unlicensed property. An inspector is sent to premises if a licence is more than six weeks out of date, if a new record is added to the database which doesn’t have a current licence, and where there are unlicensed addresses.

When a case is brought to court, the fine imposed is at the discretion of the judge. The maximum for a first time offence is €1,000 but second-time offenders can expect penalties of up to €2,000.

Last year, 18,048 summons were sent to households but the issue was resolved before the courts were involved in 6,562 cases.

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“Bringing people to court is a last resort and only carried out where all other means have failed,” Dunning told the Oireachtas committee.

“Every effort is taken to identify unlicensed holders, from people whose licence has lapsed to people who have moved premises to people who will do all in their power to avoid paying for the licence.”

During 2012, 272 people were jailed for not paying the charge, a jump of almost 50 per cent on previous years.

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