MORE than 400 people were caught watching TV without a valid licence in Newtownabbey in 2011, it has been revealed.
Figures released by TV Licensing show that more than 80 evaders were detected in Ballyclare alone, with another 350 being caught across the rest of the borough. This compares to around 240 detections in Carrickfergus, and just over 170 in Larne.
Last year there were more than 15,100 people caught watching TV illegally in Northern Ireland and almost 390,000 across the UK. The estimated evasion rate remains the same as it has for the past five years, at around five per cent.
The vast majority of people - around 19 out of 20 households and businesses - are correctly licensed in accordance with the legal requirements, but TV Licensing still catches more than 1,000 evaders every day.
Deborah King TV Licensing spokesperson for Northern Ireland, commented: “On behalf of licence fee payers, we are committed to tackling evasion and enforcing the law amongst the small minority who should pay, but don’t. It’s only fair.
“People are given every opportunity to pay, but if they fail to do so and watch TV illegally, we will seek a prosecution. The penalty is a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs and a victim surcharge. Anyone found guilty is also required to buy a TV Licence at £145.50 if they still need one or they could face a second prosecution. It’s really not worth the risk.”
For information about how to purchase a TV Licence, and ways to spread the cost, log on to www.tvlicensing.co.uk
Meanwhile, South Antrim MLA Pam Lewis has urged people to make the switch to digital television before October, when the old analogue system comes to an end.