Thousands of women prosecuted for TV licence evasion in the West Midlands

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The Magistrates’ Association has called for a better understanding as to why most TV licence evasion cases are against women

Three-quarters of people prosecuted in the West Midlands for television licence evasion in 2022 were women, new figures show.

The Magistrates' Association said a better understanding of what is behind the gender disparity is needed to address the issue. It comes as the TV licence increased £169.50 to this month, up from £159.

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Ministry of Justice figures show there were 4,339 adults prosecuted for TV licence evasion in the West Midlands in 2022. Of these, 3,202 (74%) were women. It is down from 75% the year before.

A TV licence is a legal requirement for anyone wanting to watch live TV on terrestrial channels, or online streaming. The fine for not having a licence is up to £1,000 plus any legal costs. Additional compensation may also be ordered.

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Magistrates’ Association said the organisation is concerned the offence disproportionately affects women. He said: "According to TV licensing data, this gender disparity is not reflected in who holds the TV licence, which suggests that the disparity results from either capacity or willingness to pay, or the enforcement practices being followed."

BBC licence evasion cases mainly affect womenBBC licence evasion cases mainly affect women
BBC licence evasion cases mainly affect women | PA

Get a bespoke headline round-up from Birmingham, as well as breaking news updates, when you sign up to BirminghamWorld’s free emails He added it is thought women are more likely to register as heads of household or are more likely to be home during the day, therefore more likely to answer the door to inspectors.

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"What we are clear about is that a better understanding is needed of what is behind the disparity, and then action should be taken to address it going forward," he said.

Across England and Wales, 32,092 women were prosecuted for not having a licence despite watching or recording TV shows. They accounted for 74% of all prosecutions against adults for the offence. It was down slightly from 75% in 2021, and 76% in 2020.

A TV Licencing spokesperson said: "Prosecution is always a last resort and our priority is to help people stay correctly licensed." They added the issue of why more women are prosecuted than men is a "complex one".

They said: "It was the subject of an in-depth, independently overseen review published last year which found no evidence that TV Licensing deliberately discriminates against any group; that gender is not a factor in the way that we collect the licence fee and that broader societal factors, such as financial hardship and household composition, drive the disparity.

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"We are now implementing a 10-point plan to offer further support to people, mitigate the risks of these societal factors where possible and therefore reduce the risk of prosecution."

The Ministry of Justice figures cover a period before the BBC's review and the action plan were put in place.