Feeds

TV Licensing abandons case against unlicensed TV owner

Former prisoner not 'technically guilty'

High performance access to file storage

A former prisoner at the forefront of prison law advocacy has overturned a TV licensing conviction on appeal. John Hirst said he used his television only for watching videos, DVDs and CCTV footage of his own house but was found "technically guilty".

Hirst, who tells this week's OUT-LAW Radio about the case, represented himself at Hull Magistrates' Court despite suffering from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. Again representing himself, he won his case on appeal to the Hull Crown Court when the TV Licensing Authority decided not to defend the case.

Hirst claimed that the interview on which his conviction was based was improperly carried out when representatives of TV Licensing visited his home. An unusual verdict at the Magistrates' Court found him "technically guilty" but gave him a complete discharge.

Hirst said he thinks that is because the court believed him that he did not view television broadcasts on his set. "That was when I knew they believed I was telling the truth," he said.

Despite the fact that Hirst was discharged, he took the appeal on a point of principle. "The TV Licencing Authority assume if you say that you don't watch your TV for live broadcasts you're a liar," Hirst told OUT-LAW Radio. "It's still down to the prosecution to prove guilt, not for the assumption to be there that you are guilty and you need to prove innocence.

"As far as I am concerned there is nothing such as 'technically guilty' in English law, you are either innocent or you are guilty," he said.

Hirst is an expert in prison reform. Convicted for manslaughter in 1979 he was a violent prisoner who was moved from prison to prison. In the late 1980s he applied for an experimental educational programme and learned that prisoners had the right to air their grievances through official channels that he said prisoners were never told about.

Diverting his energy to legitimate protest he successfully used the Human Rights Act to challenge the governments' attempts to ban prisoners from speaking to the media and in 2000 formed the first prisoners' representative group, the Association of Prisoners.

Hirst believes that if more prisoners knew about their legal rights they would not have to conduct riots to voice their objections to their treatment. "I realised that I could now start complaining and receiving responses to complaints rather than start throwing the desk around and being violent," he said.

It was a sense of injustice that led him to take his TV licence case as far as he did. "It began with a whole lot of letters that came, each letter got more and more threatening as it went along," he said "It was a whole lot of assumptions that I was doing something wrong."

"I have admitted to offences as severe as manslaughter and arson, so I'm not going to lie on something as piddling as a TV Licence," he said. "They got that wrong, they picked on the wrong person."

When contacted, the TV Licensing Authority did not say why they did not defend the Crown Court appeal.

See: OUT-LAW Radio

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Number crunching suggests Yahoo! US is worth less than nothing
China and Japan holdings worth more than entire company
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.