Decriminalisation?

Photo by Seán J Crossan

Don’t worry: I renewed my TV licence before the deadline.

Failure to obtain a TV licence (unless you benefit from an exemption) is a criminal offence and could be punishable by a fine of up to £1,000.

Currently, the Communications Act 2003 and the Communications (TV Licensing) Regulations 2004 contains the relevant law.

So, it was with some interest that I read that the UK Government intends to review the law and decriminalisation may be an option. This of course, would mean that it would no longer be a criminal offence for failure to obtain a TV licence.

A link to the story on the Sky News website can be found below:

https://news.sky.com/story/government-reviewing-decriminalising-non-payment-of-bbc-licence-fee-11888375

When beginning my introductory lectures about law and legal obligations, I often remark to my students that legal principles or rules (especially in relation to criminal law) are a reflection of society’s values.

Well, guess what? Society can move on or evolve. The law is a living, breathing entity. There is nothing fixed about it.

This week, a new UK Parliament will convene at Westminster following last Thursday‘s General Election. It is a widely accepted constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind its successors. The Prime Minister has already signalled his intention to take a very different path from the Parliament that sat between June 2017 and December 2019.

When discussing the possible decriminalisation with regard to non-payment of the TV licence fee, one of my students asked what would happen to those individuals who had previously been convicted of this offence?

Too bad; tough, I responded. That is the law and if you break it, you pay the penalty. So, a final word of warning: don’t be tempted to flout the law in the hope that decriminalisation will happen any time soon.

Commit the crime, pay the fine.

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 16 December 2019

Published by

sjcrossan1

A legal blog by the author of Introductory Scots Law: Theory & Practice (3rd Edition: 2017; Hodder Gibson) Sean J. Crossan BA (Hons), LLB (Hons), MSc, TQFE I have been teaching law in Higher and Further Education for nearly 25 years. I also worked as an employment law consultant in a Glasgow law firm for over a decade. I am also a trade union representative and continue to make full use of my legal background. Please note that this Blog provides a general commentary about issues in Scots Law. It is not intended as a substitute for in-depth legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem, you should always consult with a qualified Scottish solicitor who will be able to provide you with the support that you require.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s