50% surge in those jailed over TV licence fines

The number of people jailed last year for the non-payment of TV licence fines jumped by almost 50%, new figures show.

According to figures provided by the Irish Prison Service, the number of people jailed for non-payment of TV licence fines last year rose from 183 to 272 — a jump of 89, or 48.6%.

The number jailed for the non-payment of TV license fines has increased more than five-fold in the past five years.

The figures for 2008 showed that 49 people were jailed; with 75 jailed in 2009; 152 jailed in 2010; and 183 jailed in 2011.

The proceeds from the €160 licence and commercial revenues are used to finance the stellar salaries enjoyed by RTÉ’s top stars, Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny, and Marian Finucane as well as the general RTÉ pay bill.

Figures released earlier this year show that 83 staff members at RTÉ are paid more than €100,000. The average pay at the station is €60,000 — almost twice the national average.

Those who do not pay the TV licence can face fines of up to €1,000.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said yesterday: “It is incredible the amount of people being sent to jail for non-payment of a TV licence fine while at the same time, you have very serious criminals availing of the revolving doors at our prisons.”

Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: “The increase in the numbers going to jail brings into sharp focus the urgent need for the Government to introduce its fines legislation.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the numbers going to jail for non-payment of TV licence fines “represents a poor administration of justice and I blame the Government in this case for not having the proper legislation in place”.

The average cost of a prison space last year was €65,404.

An Post has responsibility for collection of the TV licence and last year, the semi-State initiated 11,500 prosecutions in the courts against those who failed to pay their TV licence on time — an increase of 10% on the previous year.

A spokesman for An Post said: “Prosecution is not the aim, it is a last resort, at which time responsib-ility moves from An Post to the Courts Service.

“By law, if you have a TV, you must have a licence. It’s as simple as that. An Post works to ensure that people are aware of their legal obligation, and to make it as easy as possible for all customers to buy or renew a licence.

“In any case, everyone is given the opportunity to purchase or renew a licence following a visit by an inspector or receipt of a reminder card. Everyone has time to buy a licence before the prosecution process kicks in.”

Last year, the number of TV licences sold totalled 1m in addition to the 408,000 people who receive a free TV licence.

The rate of non-compliance is running at 15%. According to An Post, on average 50% of people are paying before the licence expires or within a couple of days expiring; 10.25% of the sales are by way of direct debit instalments with 11.5% of licences bought by people using savings stamps to pay.

The Government’s Fines Bill is scheduled to be published in the current Dáil term and is expected to cut down on the numbers going to prison for the non-payment of fines.

The legislation will allow a person subject to a fine of more than €100 to pay the fine by installment over 12 months and will allow the court to make an attachment of an earnings order or a recovery order to ensure the fine is paid.


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