Attendance at TV Licensing search warrant executions

R. Vaughan made this Freedom of Information request to Cheshire Constabulary

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Cheshire Constabulary.

Dear Cheshire Constabulary,

Could you please confirm how many times your officers attended search warrants in accordance of S366(2) Communications act 2003 granted to Capita Business Services Ltd (trading as "TV Licensing") for the past 5 years?

Yours faithfully,

R. Vaughan

Cheshire Constabulary

Dear Mr Vaughan,

I acknowledge receipt of your correspondence received 02/10/2012  which is
being dealt with as a request for information in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I am in the process of dealing with your request and will respond in due
course and in any case by 30/10/2012. Please contact us by e-mail at
[Cheshire Constabulary request email] if you have any further enquiries.

Regards

Julie Watson
Information Compliance
Professional Standards Department
Tel:        01606 366556

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Cheshire Constabulary

Dear R Vaughan,

I refer to your recent request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 concerning the number of occasions officers of the
Cheshire Constabulary have attended search warrants in accordance of S366
(2) Communications act 2003 granted to Capita Business Services Ltd

We believe that we need further time in which to provide a full response
to you. In particular we are required to consult with other agencies and to
consider the public interest before responding to your request.

We estimate that we will have reached a decision on or before 26/11/2012

If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not
hesitate to contact me.

Regards

John Gannon
Information Compliance
Professional Standards Department
Tel: 01606 364176

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Cheshire Constabulary

1 Attachment

Dear R Vaughan,

I refer to your recent request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 as set out below:

Could you please confirm how many times your officers attended search
warrants in accordance of S366(2) Communications act 2003 granted to Capita
Business Services Ltd (trading as "TV Licensing")for the past 5 years?

In accordance with section 1(1) (a) of the Act our response is provided
below;

I have now considered your request and in particular where the public
interest considerations lie in respect of disclosure or not of the
information.
I have decided that the information should be exempted by virtue of Section
31 (1) (a) (b) (d) and (g) and (2) (a) Law Enforcement.

This type of information has been requested previously both from ourselves,
other forces and the BBC itself. It is our view that disclosure would
prejudice the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of
offenders and the administration of justice. In addition disclosure would
prejudice the BBC in the exercise of its functions for the purposes of
ascertaining if any person has failed to comply with the law.

Harm
It is a criminal offence to install or use television receiving equipment
to receive television programmes without a valid licence. TV Licensing
investigates and
prosecutes unlicensed use of television receiving equipment. It uses search
warrants to assist in this activity. TV Licensing’s policy on search
warrants has been made public in the past. Search warrants are applied for
in cases where the evidence means that it is extremely likely that a
television is in use. Search warrant applications are considered
scrupulously before they go forward to the court and they are treated very
much as a last resort. As a matter of law a search warrant cannot be
granted unless there are reasonable grounds for the application.The Police
will be asked to attend the execution of a Search Warrant to observe, to
assist if required and to prevent a breach of the peace.

Additional convincing arguments from the BBC in relation to campaign groups
via a number of blogs and forums on the internet, who are dedicated to
people who are dissatisfied with having to pay the licence fee and seek to
avoid any detection from non payment of the licence fee. These sites are
used by members to share information on TV licensing and how to evade
payment. The Information Tribunal considered this evidence, and the fact
that any information in
relation to TV licensing becomes subject to intense scrutiny by these
groups. Evidence was supplied to the Tribunal and their conclusion said
that:

“Once widely disseminated, we consider the information would be used to
assess the likelihood of detection and enforcement of non-payment of
licence
fees. This is not just based on reasonable supposition. We have seen that
there are already examples of websites providing advice and tactics on how
to evade the licence fee. These include assertions about the right to
search and indicate an interest in searches. The exhibits even illustrated
how
information disclosed to the public by the BBC including through the FOIA
process has been used to assess the risk of detection. It is highly likely
that some would look to use this evidence to attempt to assess whether
detection of non-payment were likely. We think that having assessed the
risk, this would cause either more evasion, or at least a detrimental
effect on the BBC’s strategy for enforcement..."

We have undertaken another review into the websites/forums available, and
find that the blogs/forums/websites are indeed active and easily
accessible.
We therefore consider that the evidence supplied by the BBC, and upheld by
the Tribunal, is convincing. It is the presence of the campaign groups and
their sheer
tenacity in actively evading detection that adds value to the need for the
Police to uphold the S31 approach.
For example, the Police are well aware of campaign groups which demonstrate
a range of subversive and overt tactics. When reviewing any requests for
information on these subject areas, the Police would never wish to divulge
anything that would be of use to these campaigns that would enable them to
avoid detection.

S 31 Public Interest Test
Factors favouring disclosure
Any disclosure would demonstrate the accountability and transparency of
police operations and interaction with the TV licensing authority. In turn
it would show that
public funds are being appropriately applied and that value of money is
being obtained.

Factors favouring non disclosure
There are a number of processes already in place which govern and oversee
the TV licensing process For example, search warrants are only issued by
independent third parties (the Magistrate, in accordance with strict legal
requirements, would not issue a warrant unless there was sufficient
evidence and public interest.) Therefore the public interest in knowing
that TV Licensing is using its powers proportionately is satisfied.
It is publically known that the Police are asked to assist in executing
search warrants. Therefore revealing the number of times Police have
attended would
disclose the levels of enforcement by the BBC throughout the UK. This
information can be used by people who wish to avoid paying the television
licence fee. This is of particular relevance as there are a number of
active campaigns who wish to undermine the licence fee process.
Any disclosure would also undermine the partnership approach to law
enforcement between the BBC and police forces.

Balance
Although it is considered that there is a large public interest in any TV
licensing information, which is demonstrated by the number of
forums/websites/debates, this
conversely also provides the evidence for withholding the information
requested. Any information disclosed by the Police could assist a
person/campaign in
attempting to evade detection – this in turn could prejudice the BBC’s
enforcement strategy. The strongest public interest is in the BBC being
able to enforce the
television licensing system cost effectively and in not disclosing
information which could impede the deterrent effect.
The Police are aware that the debate for disclosure of any information for
TV licence has been upheld by the Information Commissioner and at Tribunal.
In particular, the evidence for the active campaign groups for non payment
is convincing. We are satisfied in terms of section 2(2) of the Act that in
all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the
exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not
hesitate to contact me.

If you are not satisfied with the decision applied in this case I enclose
for your attention a copy of the Constabulary's appeal procedures.

(See attached file: FOI Appeals Procedures.Final version.doc)

Regards

John Gannon
Information Compliance
Professional Standards Department
Tel: 01606 364176

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Dear Mr Gannon,

Many thanks for your reply. Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Cheshire Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Attendance at TV Licensing search warrant executions' due to the following reasons,

1) I have resonable suspicion to believe the reasons given in your refusal notice are not the opinion of Cheshire Constabulary, rather the opinion of Capita Business Services Ltd and the British Broadcasting Corporation (T/A TV Licensing).

2) Several times the response mentioned internet forums encouraging evasion. The only internet forum I can find which campaigns against the UK TV licence is http://www.tvlicenceresistance.info. This forum actively discourages evasion and gives advice to Legally Licence Free householders on how to deal with Capita Business Services Ltd's correspondence and visits, which is often misleading and threatening in nature. Furthermore other websites such as http://www.bbctvlicence.com/ and http://tv-licensing.blogspot.co.uk/ never encourages evasion, the latter blog clearly stating:- "If you use equipment to receive or record live broadcast television programmes then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one."

3)The magistrates' Court who grants search warrants under S366 (2) is nothing more than a "Kangaroo Court" in this respect. Capita Business Services Ltd's "evidence" is guesswork at best. "Evidence" can range from sight of a redundant aerial/satellite dish to quoting a figure from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board's estimation of 97% of householders owning a TV, which they claim came from a TV detector van.

4)I believe this information is in the public's interest as innocent householders often get threatened with a search warrant when they refuse entry to a sales officer working on behalf of Capita Business services Ltd (T/A TV Licensing).

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/at...

Yours faithfully,

R. Vaughan

Mr Hillas left an annotation ()

The quote below is from Cheshire Constabulary's non-response to the FoI request above. It is not for Cheshire Constabulary to assume and or presume what is or is not in the best interests of the BBC. When responding to FoI requests it is information posited by the request that Cheshire Constabulary must provide. It most definitely is not the duty of Cheshire Constabulary to act as policy proxy on behalf of the BBC.

It raises questions as to what other outside organisations apart from the BBC are interfering with and dictating Cheshire Constabulary's FoI policies.

I advise the requestor to take the matter to the Information Commissioner if they get no satisfaction from Cheshire Constabulary.
quote:
"This type of information has been requested previously both from ourselves other forces and the BBC itself. It is our view that disclosure would prejudice the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of
offenders and the administration of justice. In addition disclosure would prejudice the BBC in the exercise of its functions for the purposes of ascertaining if any person has failed to comply with the law."

Cheshire Constabulary

Dear R Vaughan,

Thank you for your email received today, 26/11/2012 in which you express
dissatisfaction with our response to your request under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000, our reference number 4095

In view of your comments your request has been forwarded to Mr Nick Regan
who has been appointed by the Authority to act as an independent
appeals/reviewing officer. In accordance with our current policy, in line
with the requirements of the Act and guidance from the Information
Commissioner, our response to a review will be provided on or before the
24/12/2012

If you require any further information you may contact Mr Regan direct on
the following:

By telephone: 01606 364113

or by email to

[email address]

You can of course contact me direct over this or any other FOI matter at
any time using the contact information already provided.

Regards

John Gannon
Freedom of Information Officer
Tel: 01606 36 4176

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dennis fallon left an annotation ()

Posting annotations is good, as it ensures you get to hear the reply.

Nick Regan,

Dear R Vaughan,

 

I write with reference to your email received on the 26^th November 2012
in which you requested an internal review under the Freedom of Information
Act, 2000. This is in relation to your request for information under the
Act dated 2nd October 2012. 

 

For the purposes of the review, your original request is set out below:

 

Could you please confirm how many times your officers attended search
warrants in accordance of S366(2) Communications act 2003 granted to
Capita Business Services Ltd (trading as "TV Licensing")for the past 5
years?

 

In carrying out this review, I have referred to the legislation guidance,
the Code of Practice on the Discharge of the Functions of Public
Authorities under Part 1 of the Freedom of Information Act. I have also
taken into account the ACPO Freedom of Information Act Manual of Guidance,
along with Guidance and Best Practice Notices issued by the Information
Commissioner’s Office.

 

I would advise that after considering the original request along with the
associated response, the original decision of the Constabulary is upheld.

 

In line with S17 of the Act, a public authority can refuse to respond to a
request and as such specify the appropriate exemption(s). In assessing the
request, I would confirm that the application of S31(1)(a)(b)(d)(g) and
(2) Law Enforcement is appropriate and correct. 

 

I have revisited the rationale set out in the Constabulary’s original
response and would fully concur with the conclusion of the Harm test,
particularly given the comprehensive consideration given by the Courts
before a warrant is issued.

 

With reference to the application of a Public Interest Test, there can be
little argument as to the requirement for all public bodies, including the
BBC and Polices Forces, to be transparent in their utilisation of public
funding. This however, is outweighed by the wider public interest and
indeed responsibility, in the BBC being able to effectively progress and
enforce its mandated licensing responsibilities. The release of the
information requested would certainly undermine this important activity
and assist those who seek to evade paying the appropriate levy.   

 

If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not
hesitate to contact me.

 

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you have further recourse for
appeal, if required, to the Information Commissioner. Information can be
obtained about the appeal procedure from:

 

The Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK8 5AF

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Nick Regan

 

 

 

Nick Regan

Information Security Manager

Information Compliance

Professional Standards

Cheshire Constabulary

01606 364113

 

This communication is intended for the addressee(s) only.
Please notify the sender if received in error. Internet email
is not to be treated as a secure means of communication.
The Constabulary monitors all Internet and email activity
and requires it is used for official communications only. Thank
you for your co-operation.

dennis fallon left an annotation ()

I hate to see police activities being covered up.It shows they are trying to hide something.Time for the overworked Info Comissioner to review yet another case.BTW you could ask if the `reply`was provided by Cheshire FOI department alone OR after consultation with the Central ACPO FOI department.

Mark Markinson left an annotation ()

Yet another whitewash.

David left an annotation ()

This is infuriating. I'd be very surprised if the original response originated with Cheshire Constabulary as it sounds very much like BBC bureaucracy.

Nowhere in that response are the Legally Licence Free considered. Having been a victim of the BBC and their agents T/A "TV Licensing"™ I have personal experience of what they get up to.

Messrs Gannon and Regan may do well to peruse the personal correspondence section of lime@lime-marmalade.net

James Albright left an annotation ()

I don't think it makes any difference whether they are copying and pasting a reasponse. Why should they waste time making up new text saying the same thing?

As long as that is their official view of course.

David left an annotation ()

I made a mistake with my link earlier. Since it does not appear to be possible to edit it here's the correct link:

http://www.lime-marmalade.net/

William Hammonds left an annotation ()

My advice would be, do not trust police at all.
They attend with tv license agents claiming they are colleagues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRQTkOk_... 10 seconds of video) This is in order to intimidate.
Why would a constabulary have an interest in wether The bbc collecting more revenue.
A constable should only be interested in common law.
Maybe a request to view the Cheshire constabulary accounts would reveal interesting funding.

paul left an annotation ()

interesting reading but it seems to have gone cold case. It is in the publics interest to know how many CAPITA searches with the Police in attendance have failed to reveal and proof which constitutes a waste of Police time and our tax money which fund them