Philip Dean writes:
I made a Freedom of Information query to the BBC several months ago and asked about implied right of access:
Question: If a person harassed by your visits, writes to you and confirms that they have no need of a TV licence, explaining their circumstances, (such a letter satisfies your duty of information as regards the TV licence) and forbids your visiting officers access to his/her property and effectively withdraws any rights of access to his/her property – would this be honoured by BBC TVL? (Again this assumes there is no evidence of an offence being committed) (A simple Yes or No).
Reply: If a person writes to us and withdraws the implied right of access to their property, then of course we will adhere to their instructions.
This was their complete reply to the question; no conditionals added.
I also asked the FOI query:
Question: Could you confirm that a search warrant can only be granted if a magistrate is satisfied that reasonable evidence exists that an offence is being committed, and that a search warrant cannot be granted simply on the basis of non cooperation with BBC TVL?
Reply: TV Licensing does not consider search warrant applications except as a last resort and only then when legal advisors agree that there is good reason to believe that an offence has been committed.
In order to apply for a search warrant TV licensing must have reasonable cause to believe that television equipment is being used for the purpose of viewing or recording television programme services without a current licence of the appropriate type. They may then apply to the local magistrates for a search warrant, who will consider their reasons before giving agreement or otherwise.
A search warrant would never be applied for based solely on non cooperation with TV licencing.
I asked this question because I noticed, looking at standard threatening letters other people had received from BBC TVL, that TV Licensing were deliberately giving the impression that non cooperation with BBC TVL would result in a search warrant being applied for.
In relationship to a search warrant obtained by TVL, I asked:
Question: As to the fear of doors being 'kicked in' by the police because of a person being on holiday or at work, could you confirm that such would not be the case for possible TV licence evasion?
Reply: It is not our policy, when administering a search warrant (which we always do in the presence of police officers) to force entry to an address if the occupier is not at home. The officers would simply return at another time.
I asked the same question of Gwent Police, who also confirmed that their police officers only accompany a TVL visiting officer to prevent a breach of the peace. They weren't there to force entry into a property.
I've been living in my present house for a number of years. When I first moved in and received BBC TVL threatening letters I wrote back something like this outline of a letter.
You will notice that I used (a) harassment and (b) withdrawing implied right of access.
BBC TVL replied to the letter and I was free of visits and letters for just over four years. I then received a personal letter asking me if circumstances had changed. I was also placed back on the 'standard threatening letter' scheme. I wrote back to them with essentially the same reply; they acknowledged the letter – and again I have received no further letters and no visits. (I can confirm there were no visits as there is always someone in the house).
So I can confirm that withdrawing implied right of access certainly works – it worked for me for over six years.
Why this method is not better known? I noticed in my replies from BBC TVL that they never concede defeat. I wrote this on my website as to what to expect:
They will probably come out with some kind of drivel about 'we reserve the right for one of our visiting officers to call round . . .', which is a lie. After being informed that their conduct is now harassment they will be liable for civil action if they did; but TVL aren't going to admit to being so easily defeated. (A lot of TVL's correspondence is in fact bluster and lies.)
They will put a 'stop' on your property and they will leave you alone for three to four years. After this time they will write again to you politely enquiring if circumstances have now changed. They will also automatically put you back on their threatening letter scheme.
They might come out with some additional lies and bluster about how they have now introduced a new policy and that they now need to inspect your home; and if you don't comply they will not put a 'stop' on your property. (In other words comply or else you will get continual letters and visits). This, of course, is outrageous and shows the moral fibre, or lack of it, at the BBC (I have such a letter from TVL with such a threat!). Of course it is all disinformation (lies and bluster). Simply write to them again, as at the first, and they will have to leave you alone.
You might, during the time you wait for a reply, get a standard threatening letter because you have been automatically put back on the standard harassment scheme.
I've written about my experiences with this a few times over the years at the BBC Resistance Forum. I think because BBC TVL are dishonest in their replies, and try to give the impression they will continue to visit or write, people aren't aware that withdrawal of implied right of access works. The public give credence to BBC TVL bluster! People seem only to be aware now that this works, because for some reason, the BBC are now admitting they will leave people alone if instructed. But they've been doing this for the past 6 years in my experience – and I suspect they have always done this.
In my correspondence I've always stressed the harassment angle, not just the trespass angle. The trespass angle is pretty feeble, but the harassment angle isn't.
Harassment: (1) A course of action by party A is harassment of party B if party A should have previously known its actions would be harassing to party B. or (2) A course of action by party A is harassment if party B informs party A that their actions are causing harassment, and that party A should now desist. If party A continues it is guilty of harassment.
If you write and inform BBC TVL that you have no need of a licence and that their correspondence or threats of visits/actual visits are unwanted and are causing harassment, then if BBC TVL continued they would be liable under (2) above. This is my understanding of the law, and I don't claim this to be definitive.
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