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Visits, prosecutions and fines

If you have any questions about a visit from one of our visiting officers, a prosecution case or payment of a court fine, this page has answers to some of the most common questions. It may be useful if you have received a:

  • summons (Northern Ireland, Isle of Man or Channel Islands)
  • single justice procedure notice (England or Wales); or
  • citation or conditional offer of a fiscal fine (Scotland).

Visiting officers

What happens when a visiting officer visits a home?

Our visiting officers will explain why they are visiting, be polite, courteous and fair, and abide by our rules of conduct.

If you allow an officer to enter your home, the visit is normally very quick. The officer simply takes a brief view of the main living areas to verify whether or not television receiving equipment is installed or in use.

When necessary, they will complete a record of interview and ask for a signature to confirm that the notes taken are an accurate account of that interview.

They will also make sure the person being interviewed knows what the consequences may be of watching or recording live TV programmes on any channel or device, or downloading or watching BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer, without being covered by a TV Licence.

How do I know if a visiting officer is genuinely employed by TV Licensing?

When our officers visit a property they will:

  • Prove their identity by showing their two-part TV Licensing ID cards.
  • The first part of their ID card will display the TV Licensing logo, a passport sized photograph along with the visting officer’s first name. The ID card will also show the expiry date along with their unique six-digit card number.
  • The second part of their ID is a separate card which contains the officer’s photograph and name to indicate that this person is authorised to engage in TV Licensing investigations.
  • If you request it, the officer will provide you with our telephone number: 0300 790 6071. You can then call this number and have TV Licensing verify the visiting officer’s details by providing the officer’s unique six-digit card number. The Customer Service advisor will guide you through the rest of the verification process.
In what circumstances can TV Licensing access my property without my permission?

TV Licensing can only enter your home without your permission if authorised to do so under a search warrant granted by a magistrate (or sheriff in Scotland). They will only do this when they have reason to believe an offence is being committed. TV Licensing will be accompanied by the police when executing a search warrant.

What rules govern records of interview made by visiting officers?

Visiting officers may interview an individual they suspect to have committed an offence under the Communications Act 2003 but only after they have cautioned that person (i.e. informed them of their legal rights, including that they have the right not to answer any of the questions). This is in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in England and Wales or equivalent legislation in other jurisdictions.

An officer will make a written record of the interview and an individual has the right to refuse to sign the record or to ask for corrections to be made if they believe that it is not accurate.

What are your rules of conduct for visiting officers?

When our officers visit a property they will:

  • Prove their identity by showing an identity card. If requested, they’ll also provide a telephone number so the person being visited can confirm the information on the card.
  • Explain why they are visiting and be polite, courteous and fair.
  • Follow applicable laws, regulations, policies and codes of practice.
  • Avoid threatening or intimidating behaviour.
  • Respect people’s rights to privacy and confidentiality.
  • Enter the property only when given permission.
  • When necessary, conduct a record of interview and ask for a signature to confirm that the notes taken are an accurate account of that interview.
  • Make sure the person being interviewed knows what consequences may arise as a result of watching or recording live TV programmes on any channel or device, or downloading or watching BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer, without being covered by a TV licence.
  • Stop the visit if asked to leave.
  • When necessary, use detection equipment or apply to Court for a search warrant if they have reason to believe that someone at the address is committing an offence by using a television receiver without a licence.
How do I complain about a visiting officer?

TV Licensing uses various measures to ensure that officers are fulfilling their duties appropriately; this includes assessing the feedback received from people visited. If a complaint is made about a visiting officer’s conduct, we will investigate and, depending on the outcome of the investigations, take appropriate action.

Find out more about making a complaint

Why were some visiting officers wearing body worn video equipment?

Capita Business Services Ltd (Capita), who are contracted to enforce the TV Licence, trialled the use of body worn video equipment between April 2019 and March 2020 to help safeguard the health and safety of their employees and to deter physical and serious verbal assaults against them.

Find out more about the trial

Vulnerable customers

A vulnerable customer is someone whose personal circumstances have a significant impact on their ability to buy or manage a TV Licence. This could be an illness or other condition. Anyone who is interviewed under caution is asked whether there are any personal circumstances they would like to make us aware of.

All TV Licensing visiting officers receive specific training on how to respond appropriately to customers who report a disability when they visit an address or exhibit behaviour that could be indicative of a hidden disability.

If you don’t pay your TV Licence

If you’re prosecuted

We will only prosecute as a last resort. You may be offered an alternative to prosecution first, such as setting up a payment plan. If this is an option for you, we’ll confirm this in writing.

However, it’s highly likely that you’ll be prosecuted and still need to buy a TV licence if any of the following applies to you:

  • You have a previous TV licensing conviction, or you have been considered for prosecution in the past.
  • We needed to use detection equipment or get a search warrant to gather evidence in your case.
  • You made a false declaration of not needing a TV licence.
  • You said that you did not, or do not, intend to pay your licence fee even though you needed one.
  • You were offered an alternative to prosecution, but still failed to pay for a licence in full or make the payments you needed to for one.

If we do prosecute, you will be sent one of the following:

  • A Single Justice Procedure Notice (England and Wales only)
  • A summons (Northern Ireland and Isle of Man)

In jurisdictions where we do not have the right to prosecute, we report cases to the local law enforcement agencies who then decide whether or not to prosecute.

  • In Scotland we report cases to the Office of the Procurator Fiscal who have a range of options available to them. They may issue a conditional offer of a fiscal fine; or you may be cited to attend court.
  • In Jersey and Guernsey reports are passed to the police who may conduct further investigations themselves and if you are prosecuted you may be summonsed to attend court. In Jersey you may first be invited to the Parish Hall to discuss the case with the Centenier.
Single Justice Procedure Notice

Most cases in England and Wales will go through the Single Justice Procedure (SJP), which means you may be able to have your case decided by a magistrate without going to court.

The SJP Notice sets out what you have been charged with and the facts of the case (known as the evidence). You will need to respond to the notice by pleading guilty or not guilty within the deadline given on your letter. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to make a plea online.

Visit GOV.UK to find out more about the SJP.

If you plead guilty

You can provide information to support your plea if you want to – for example, any mitigating circumstances. You can also give us information on your finances. This will be considered if you’re found guilty and ordered to pay a fine.

A decision will be made on your case based on the written statement you give, and the evidence given by TV Licensing. This will happen without a court hearing. The decision will be sent to you by post.

You can choose to appear before the court in person if you want to – make sure you tick the relevant box on your notice. You’ll then be sent a letter with the date and time of your hearing.

If you plead not guilty

You should provide reasons for your plea, and details of any witnesses you want to give evidence on your behalf.

You’ll be sent a letter with the date and time of your hearing.

If you don’t respond to the notice

The case will still go ahead, and you will lose your chance to make a plea and provide any supporting information. You’ll be found guilty or not guilty based on the evidence available.

You may want to read how we investigate and prosecute TV Licensing offences:

After your case has been decided

If you’re found guilty, you’ll be sent a ‘notice of fine’ telling you how much you need to pay.

This may include:

  • A maximum fine of up to £1,000 (up to £2,000 if you live in Guernsey)
  • England and Wales a victim surcharge of 10% of the fine or £30, whichever is greater
  • In Northern Ireland an offender levy of £15.
  • In the jurisdictions in which TV Licensing conduct the prosecution, prosecution costs of around £120 (if you plead not guilty this cost could be much higher)
  • Compensation for a period of unlicensed use if it is requested.

You will also still have to buy a TV Licence, if you need one.

You can’t be sent to prison for a TV Licensing conviction, but you can be sent to prison for deliberately refusing to pay court fines.

Prosecution

If you have a query about an existing court case

Please call the number on the letter you have been sent or email visit@tvlicensing.co.uk.

General information

Find out how we investigate and prosecute TV Licensing offences:

More help and information if you’re struggling to pay.

Paying court fines

To pay a court fine, please contact the appropriate court for your region. You will find the number on the letter you have received from the appropriate authority.

We know that some customers find paying the licence fee difficult. If you are struggling to make your payments see how we can help.

England and Wales

You can pay a court fine online in England and Wales.

You’ll need your ‘notice of fine’ and a debit or credit card. If you’ve lost your notice you should contact the court that gave you the fine.

You can also pay by phone:

  • Call 0300 790 9901 to pay a fine in England
  • Call 0300 790 9980 to pay a fine in Wales

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands

Please contact the court using the details on the letter you have received from them. Unfortunately we can’t provide you with a number as letters are sent by individual courts not TV Licensing.

General information about TV Licensing is available in other languages: