Monday, September 29, 2008

Not A Dry Eye In The House

We were helping out another court by dealing with an hour's worth of TV licence cases while the lawyers sorted out our main business for the day. As is normal, most defendants didn't appear, and those who did were the usual bedraggled army of the poor and disorganised. I dislike the whole business, and I remain firmly of the opinion that any BBC executive with budget responsibility should be forced to spend a day a year in a TV licensing court, to see the people who cough up the money he spends.
The defendant attended, and pleaded guilty. She was probably about thirty, and looked older, as the poor tend to do. She keeps her council flat and two kids on weekly benefit of just a little more than the price of a year's TV licence, and although she has a licence now she missed a few months early in the year, and a summons followed. I asked her what she had to say, and she said, with a rueful shake of the head "I've had a terrible few days. My aunt died, then my car packed up, then I cut myself in the kitchen. I've got money troubles, then on Saturday my little boy's puppy was really ill and we took him in a taxi to the vet's. The vet had to put him down, and that cost me £150". My colleagues and I were doing fine until that puppy cropped up - it was almost incredible, but her tale was too sad to be made up. So we fined her as little as we decently could, and then, dammit, had to impose a £15 victim surcharge. Perhaps the fools who dreamt up the surcharge might care to spend a few hours at court too. A bit of reality might do them good.

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