Keep criminalising licence fee dodgers until 2017 says former BBC chairman

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Keep criminalising licence fee dodgers until 2017 says former BBC chairman

In defiance of MPs who want to end the threat of jail, former BBC chairman Michael Grade backs plans to continue penalising TV licence fee evaders with criminal records until 2017.

Now a Conservative peer, Lord Grade is one of four members of the Lords who are backing the delay to implementing this plan.

The Telegraph reports: Michael Grade, the former chairman of the BBC, has been accused of trying to block plans to end the criminalisation of hundreds of thousands of people who do not pay the television licence fee each year.

Ministers have drawn up reforms that could result in an end to criminal sanctions for those who fail to pay the annual charge, which stands at £145.50 for a colour TV.

However, Lord Grade of Yarmouth has now backed an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which would delay any move to end the criminalisation of fee evaders until April 2017.

It the amendment passes, MPs will be forced to decide whether to accept the delay, or begin a potentially lengthy battle with the Lords which could see the Bill run out time before Parliament is dissolved for the election.

Licence fee evasion is an offence which can incur fines of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.

Each year, about 60 people are jailed for TV licence fee offences, which now account for one in nine of all Magistrates Court cases.

More than 180,000 people appeared before the Magistrates Courts in 2012 accused of watching television without a valid licence, with 155,000 being convicted and fined.

Last year, MPs voted in favour of reforms which would allow the government to make non-payment of the fee a matter for the civil courts, rather than a criminal offence.


Niamh Harris
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