Cherie Blair Criticizes the Absurd Rate of Female Convictions for TV Licence Fee Evasion in the UK

Cherie Blair Criticizes the Absurd Rate of Female Convictions for TV Licence Fee Evasion in the UK

Cherie Blair, a renowned human rights lawyer, has expressed her frustration over the “absurd” statistics revealing that a third of all female criminal convictions in the UK are due to unpaid TV licence fees.

Blair argues that fewer women should be jailed in general, as it causes “irreparable” harm, disproportionately affecting families.

Declining Convictions Over Time

According to Ministry of Justice data from 2012 to 2016, between 29% and 31% of all female convictions each year were for licence fee evasion.

However, this percentage has decreased over the years, dropping to 25% in 2019, 18% in 2020, and just 10% in 2023.

Impact on Families

Speaking to the Times Crime and Justice Commission, Blair remarked, “When you think that a third of all female convictions are for not paying their TV licence… it’s absurd.

The cost of those women’s places in prison, the impact on their children, the fact that they’ll probably lose their accommodation.

I mean, what sense does that make?”

Legal and Financial Repercussions

In England and Wales, someone found guilty of licence fee evasion in a magistrates’ court faces a maximum fine of up to £1,000, along with prosecution costs of £120 and a victim surcharge of 40% of the fine.

While nearly 1,000 people are prosecuted each week for licence fee evasion, imprisonment is only possible for failing to pay the resulting fine.

Statistics and Trends

The last year when licence fee evasion accounted for nearly a third of women’s convictions was 2015, with 117,670 convictions out of a total of 378,873 for all offenses.

In 2023, there were 22,817 convictions for licence fee evasion, representing 10% of the total 234,615 convictions for women across all offenses.

Despite the overall decline, women still make up 74% of the convictions for this offense.

Political and Social Commentary

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss also addressed this issue during the Conservative party leadership contest in 2022, expressing concern over the high number of women imprisoned for non-payment.

However, it was clarified that imprisonment is not for failing to pay the licence itself but for not paying the subsequent fines.

Proposals and Support

Blair also called for a ban on imprisoning pregnant women, noting the devastating impact on their children, with 95% of jailed women’s children ending up in care.

In response to these concerns, the BBC announced increased support for individuals in financial difficulty to pay the TV licence fee, following a gender disparity review that identified societal factors as the primary cause of the high number of female prosecutions.

Calls for Decriminalization

Amid ongoing debates, there are calls to decriminalize non-payment of the licence fee, which increased to £169.50 from April.

Although the Government decided against decriminalization in 2021, the issue remains under active consideration.

Conclusion

The BBC, required to issue TV licences under the Communications Act 2003, has been contacted for further comments on this ongoing issue.

The discussion continues as to whether current practices are fair and if changes are needed to prevent disproportionate impacts on women and their families.

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