Costs Mount in Texas Ambassador’s TV Licence Court Battle
March 05, 2007, Press Dispensary. TV Licensing officials have so far run up a GBP £27,000 bill in their long running legal battle with a London-based, Texan-born film maker, Robert Hertner, who took them to court after insisting he is not liable for the TV license tax – currently GBP £131.50 a year.
Legal representatives for TV Licensing and its parent company, 'self-insured' Capita Business Services Ltd, outlined the ‘court costs’ of £27,000 for just 3 meetings and a 1-day trial at a London Central County Court trial brought by writer and film-maker Robert Hertner.
Mr Hertner alleges that TV Licensing breached court rules on February 16 this year when it sent two inspectors to his flat while with the civil case still active and awaiting an appeal hearing by the European Court of Human Rights. Mr Hertner also argues that – aside from being inequitable – the TV tax, as such, can be claimed-back against income tax (find: http://www.tvlicensing.biz ).
“I was awakened by my entry-phone security buzzer, and a man who said he was from TV Licensing wanted me to come down and “talk about my TV licence,” said Mr Hertner, who suffers from a chronic chest complaint. “I said, ‘I don’t watch TV’, and told him to go away or I’d call the police.”
“My next door neighbours confirmed that two uniformed TV Licensing agents were at the entry phone at that time - which smacks of deliberate heavy-handedness, intimidation and attempted entrapment – as usual.”
“They have no right to harass me – especially as civil court procedure rules prevent them from having any contact with me except through legal counsel while my appeal is pending. Now, they’re in contempt of court.”
Mr Hertner – whose formal title is “His Excellency Robert Hertner, Ambassador and Consul General for the Republic of Texas to Europe” – claims he is exempt from paying the TV licence fee because he does not watch or record any programmes, using his television only as a computer and video camera monitor and to preview and edit his own video productions(*).
His disagreements with TV Licensing – which is administered on behalf of the BBC by Capita Business Services Ltd – date back to a previous inspector’s visit in November 2004.
Mr Hertner states: "The inspector 'invaded' my home, ordered the TV be switched on, grabbed the remote control and started flicking through the channels, only to realise the TV wasn’t connected to an aerial," he says. “Then, after stomping around in front of the TV monitor and fiddling with the fine tuner, the inspector managed to find some fuzzy images and announced, ‘There. You’re watching TV. I have to caution you …’.
“The inspector’s spiel was cut short when he was ordered to leave my home immediately, parting with, 'We'll be issuing a summons'. My guest and I were stunned by this TVL agent’s antics," he adds.
Two days later, Mr Hertner launched a multi-million pound commercial claim in the High Court against the agent, TV Licensing and Capita Ltd, alleging aggravated trespass and commercial damages, then was awarded a trial.
"In December 2005, Judge Crawford Lindsay found in favour of TV Licensing/Capita when the case was heard at the Central London County Court. As TVL has admitted to Aggravated Trespass(**) in its own evidence, I’m appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. Against all odds I have managed to establish a legal precedent by dragging TVL/Capita kicking and screaming to trial, and I will pursue this case as far as it takes to get justice,” said Mr Hertner, continuing, "The Court Forms are all on-line and anyone who can read can do the same thing on the internet."
Mr Hertner also criticised TV Licensing/Capita for wasting money in defending his action. “The law is clear and the fact is: I do not watch or record broadcast television and therefore do not need a licence,” he said. TVL/Capita's inspector behaved outrageously in my home more than two years ago, and it is beyond belief that they should show up again while the case is still active.”(**)
“TVL/CAPITA/BBC by refusing to mediate and then spending £27,000 to date is a disgraceful waste of money. Even if I lose this case, my health and resources are such that it could take ages to pay those inflated costs. At £1 per week it comes to over 500 years. I refuse to pay a tax on the tools of my trade to a cartel and I do not enjoy dumbed-down TV babble.”
Meanwhile a TVL court summons, “riddled with errors and fabricated evidence” according to Mr Hertner, was issued by TV Licensing against MR HARTNER, who does not exist, in June 2005. TVL’s case was quickly adjourned “sine die”, on the TVL private prosecutor’s request, by West London magistrate Judge Coleman “pending the outcome of the civil case”. Mr Hertner claims that TVL’s own counsel, Pearce Bond LLP, knows about TVL’s errors and has repeatedly failed in its duty, as Officers of the Court, to inform the courts of TVL’s infractions.
Mr Hertner says: “These people are more ruthless than travelling evangelists, assaulting people (find:
http://www.tvlicensing.biz/media/mpeg/TVLassaultFINALcomplete.wmv ) and trespassing at will. Moreover, TV Licensing’s inspectors work on a bonus scheme – the more prosecutions they bring, the more they are paid – plus there’s another bonus for selling TV licenses on site and commercial sales people are not allowed in our building without an agreed appointment.
“Notwithstanding the obvious conflicts of interest, according to their former CEO, up to 500,000 people are prosecuted by TVL per year and fined, on average, £150 each time – go figure. Now they want 'Magistrate’s powers’, meaning privatised STATE authority.”
He continues: “It is a fact that single mums even go to jail over it, costing the public untold thousands, and now I fully expect these last two TVL agents to concoct a search warrant – with no evidence of watching TV needed to get a warrant – just to invade my home again.
"Anyone with a similar tale or more information can contact me via: "
Finally, with a wry twinkle in his eye, HE drawls, “Though it’s not mandatory to address one as (His or Your) Excellency, one doesn’t mind.”
- ends -
Notes for editors
His Excellency Robert Hertner, Ambassador and Consul General for the Republic of Texas to Europe, is a London-based writer and film maker.
Mr Hertner has set up a special email account for people wanting to share similar TVL problems and insights:
Photos are available on request.
For independent TV licensing information, visit http://www.tvlicensing.biz .
For further information, please contact:
Tel: 0207 4605138 / 07974 585090
Notes / Authorities / references
(*) http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2003/30021--l.htm 368 - Meanings of "television receiver" and "use"
(1) In this Part "television receiver" means any apparatus of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State setting out the descriptions of apparatus that are to be television receivers for the purposes of this Part.
(2) Regulations under this section defining a television receiver may provide for references to such a receiver to include references to software used in association with apparatus.
(3) References in this Part to using a television receiver are references to using it for receiving television programmes. REPEAT: "(3) References in this Part to using a television receiver are references to using it for receiving television programmes."
(**) http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2003/30021--l.htm 364 - TV licences
(3) The restrictions and conditions subject to which a TV licence may be issued do not include- (a) a provision conferring a power of entry to any premises; REPEAT: "do not include a provision conferring a power of entry to any premises;"
(***) Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 Chapter 38 AMENDING Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
(1) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 68 (offence of aggravated trespass), in subsection (1) (which defines the offence by reference to trespass on land in the open air and lawful activity on land in the open air) omit "in the open air" in both places where those words appear. 27. Clause 60 amends Sections 68 and 69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 so that the offence of aggravated trespass can now apply to buildings as well as the open air. ‘Obstructing’ or ‘disrupting’ the activity on the land constitutes an offence carrying up to three months imprisonment.”
For further information, please contact:
Tel: 020 7460 5138 / 07974 585090