The BBC (a sort of huge local authority whose main purpose is to promote its own existence) has been responding to a change in the sentencing guidelines for people who don’t buy a TV license. The change allows courts to consider using a conditional discharge rather than a fine in a few cases.
The BBC, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph, said:
We do not believe that this will have material impact, as we already offer a conditional discharge where first-time offenders who buy a licence before their case comes to court are not prosecuted.
Given that, we think a further conditional discharge from magistrates will only be used in a very limited number of circumstances.
What is so horrible about this is that the BBC is arrogating to itself the powers of the court. The BBC does (it is true) allow people who are caught without a license to buy one rather than be prosecuted. (Of course they do; in these cases they get whatever the current cost of the license is whereas if it goes to court that costs them money and the government gets the fine). But this is not a ‘conditional discharge’. It is a commercial decision and nothing to do with the law or the courts at all. The BBC claiming that it has the right to issue court disposals is sinister. It is a good example of how local authorities often invent extra-judicial schemes and mistake themselves for the law. Anyone who reads this kind of arrogation of power and usurpation of the principle of the protection of law should be seriously concerned.
The BBC’s whole scheme for enforcing payment of the license fee is itself extrajudicial. It is based on sending harassing letters and making harassing calls to all households who have not bought a license. There is no mandate for such a scheme in law.