Feck off, and take your BBC with you...
June 25, 2008 5:23 AM   Subscribe

UK legal-filter. Warrantless access and TV Licensing...

Once again, it's time for TV Licensing to send me bullying letters demanding I pay them for something I don't use. For once they've accepted that I only need a license to receive the signal in their bully letter, but they're making their normal threat to come around and search my house for illegal receivers.

What right of access do TV Licensing have to wander into my house without a warrant, or do they have some kind of special powers?

Is it true that if you invite them in once, they have implied consent for future visits? (or am I confusing them with vampires?)

If a TV Licensing guys turns up at my house, what happens if I tell him he's welcome to stand outside with his detector thing for as long as he likes, but that he isn't crossing the threshold without a warrant...?

IANAL/IANYL is implied in all answers...
posted by twine42 to Law & Government (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The BBC maintains this page where it publishes documents relating to Freedom of Information requests pertaining to licence enforcement.

This PDF contains information specifically about the right to enter.

In a nutshell it says they will gather evidence (using 'detectors') and then present it to a magistrate who will decide whether to issue a warrant.

Importantly, it says 'a search warrant would never be applied for based solely on non-cooperation with TV licensing'

So if you a stubborn enough, it looks like you can get away with it.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 5:38 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


They have no legal right of entry without a warrant unless you invite them in. They seem to largely rely on peoples ignorance of this; its perfectly possible to turn them away at the door and refuse entry, I have done so. Recently when they truned up we merely told them we have no TV and that was the end of the story.

I would not recommend making any statement with might be interpreted as giving any kind of permission -- telling them they can stand outside might be considered inviting them to enter if you have a garden. I do not know what is the specific case here, but I believe that bailiffs have a right to break down internal doors once they have been invited through the front door so something similar may apply.


There seems to be a lot of smoke and mirrors with the whole TV detector scenario, its possible to do this, but the idea of TV detector vans going round spotting people with TV's is something that largely works through peoples fear of this. The reality is closer to going round and knocking on the doors of properties that used to have a TV licence and no longer do so.
posted by tallus at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2008


I don't have a telly and they were sending me the letters (some registered post) for ages. One day the chap turned up and I said as a single woman I would never let him in the house without a warrant, regardless of his ID. He said no worries and I received a letter shortly thereafter confirming they wouldn't bully me again for three years. So if you're a single woman or can approximate one, try that :)
posted by methylsalicylate at 5:57 AM on June 25, 2008


So if you're a single woman or can approximate one, try that

You don't need to be a single woman. They have no right to enter your property without a warrant.

Of course if you genuinely don't have any TV capable equipment, you have nothing to fear by letting them in (unless you haven't tidied ;) ) to prove it.
posted by missmagenta at 6:08 AM on June 25, 2008


So if you're a single woman or can approximate one

*looks down at moobs*

*strokes beard*

*Wonders if t'other half still has any Immac Veet*
posted by twine42 at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2008


Cheers guys (and those approximating guys :) ). I appreciate that this was a touch "amirite?!?!?"-ish, but you've confirmed what I thought. Cool.

I agree the smoke and mirrors sentiment - until recently they'd argue with you on the phone about the law, insisting all TVs needed licenses.

I'll stick to my guns and tell them that they can stand on the road and detectorize me for as long as they want, but can otherwise piss off. Should be interesting... our DVD player and Wii connected TV are in direct line of sight of the front door... ;)
posted by twine42 at 6:19 AM on June 25, 2008


Is it true that if you invite them in once, they have implied consent for future visits? (or am I confusing them with vampires?)

You have them confused with bailiffs, who can "break open the outer door to re-enter without any previous demand for re-entry" after initially gaining entry (whether you invited them or not the first time—crawling through an open window is a legal way to get the first entry). Halsbury's Laws of England: Enforcement para 147.
posted by grouse at 6:56 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it even possible to definitively detect a TV set if it's turned off and unplugged?
posted by oaf at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2008


Yes. By looking at it.
posted by bz at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2008


bz - true, but you don't need a license to own a tv or to operate it. You need the license to receive TV signals at the time they are broadcast.

I've never worked out how you are supposed to receive them at a time other than when they are broadcast, mind you...
posted by twine42 at 11:47 AM on June 25, 2008


I've never worked out how you are supposed to receive them at a time other than when they are broadcast, mind you...

hmmm... take the signal from your antenna, shift it to audio frequencies, record on some analog media (tape or whatever)... then to "receive" the signal you play back your recording, shift back to the original frequency range, and pump it in to the RF input of your TV...

so... if you did this with a 10-second tape loop, or a digital play-through device with a 10 second buffer, would you be legally free of the requirement to have a license?

posted by russm at 6:57 PM on June 25, 2008


That's why they have the cat detector vans with all the bleedin' aerials. So they can drive down the street and find out who has a television turned on.
posted by gjc at 7:02 PM on June 25, 2008


so... if you did this with a 10-second tape loop, or a digital play-through device with a 10 second buffer, would you be legally free of the requirement to have a license?

No, time-shifted broadcasts still require a licence. Unless someone else (with their own licence) recorded them for you.
posted by wilko at 3:25 PM on June 26, 2008


Just to clarify the last comments here: As wilko says the time shifted broadcasts described would require a licence, but on the grounds that you have a piece of equipment able to recieve a tv signal as it is broadcast. You can watch streamed stuff, e.g. as on iplayer, without a licence.
posted by biffa at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2008


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