Calls for immediate release of jailed TV licence grandmother

A chronically ill grandmother jailed for failing to pay a £1,100 TV licence fine should be released immediately, Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney has said.

Friday, 27th July 2018, 8:52 am
Updated Friday, 27th July 2018, 1:04 pm
Laganside courts

The party’s justice spokesman was commenting after Anne Smith from Poleglass in west Belfast began a six-day sentence at Hydebank on Wednesday.

The 59-year-old, who has serious mobility issues, told the Irish News that she was “terrified” of having the sentence hanging over her, before she presented herself at Musgrave PSNI station to be conveyed to the women’s prison in south Belfast.

“I think it is utterly ridiculous that they would arrest a woman over a TV licence. I wish I had just paid the fines,” she said.

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Mr McCartney called for the relevant authorities to intervene, and added: “I believe that is a gross over-reaction. The system should have showed some flexibility in this case because jailing a chronically grandmother does no-one any service, particularly when she was making good on her efforts to pay the fines.”

People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins has also called for her immediate release. He said: “It is disgraceful that a 59-year-old chronically ill woman has been jailed for not paying her TV licence. This is callous treatment of a vulnerable working class woman.”

A spokeswoman for TV Licensing said the body had no involvement in the court decision, and added: “We do everything we can to help people pay and only prosecute as a last resort. The maximum penalty for watching TV illegally is a fine of up to £1,000 (plus court costs and a victim surcharge).

“The majority of first time offenders are not prosecuted if they buy a licence within a specified time. There are many ways to pay, including weekly cash payments and we are currently trialling the Simple Payment Plan which offers even more help to those who might struggle to pay.”