Belfast Telegraph

15,000 caught without TV licence

More than 15,000 people were caught watching television without a valid licence in Northern Ireland last year.

This includes more than 4,600 in Belfast, 1,090 in Derry and 1,030 in Newry and Craigavon.

There were 3,415 cases dealt with by the courts in 2011 where an order was made following conviction. In nearly all cases a fine was issued.

Deborah King, TV Licensing spokeswoman, said: "People are given every opportunity to pay, but, if they fail to do so and watch TV illegally, we will seek a prosecution."

The number caught without a valid licence is down more than 4,800 on last year.

The vast majority of households in Northern Ireland possess a television. Across the UK the evasion rate remains steady at around 5%.

Ms King added: "On behalf of licence fee payers in Northern Ireland, we are committed to tackling evasion and enforcing the law amongst the small minority who should pay, but don't. It's only fair."

A colour licence costs £145.50 and is required by anyone watching TV programmes, whether they are using a TV set, computer, or any other equipment.

An unlicensed address will receive a number of reminder letters and possibly a phone call before a visit from an enquiry officer is scheduled - but if someone is then caught watching TV illegally, they risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

Detector vans and handheld detectors can be used by enquiry officers to check if an unlicensed property is watching TV illegally, but the database is the main enforcement tool.

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From Belfast Telegraph