Tax payers foot bill for licence row

TAXPAYERS today face paying out a massive £4,000 for a court row that began over a refusal to pay for a TV licence – which would have cost only £126.Costs in the case of Megual Bruno have spiralled out of control and look to be heading toward £4,400.

TAXPAYERS today face paying out a massive £4,000 for a court row that began over a refusal to pay for a TV licence – which would have cost only £126.

Costs in the case of Megual Bruno have spiralled out of control and look to be heading toward £4,400.

The case at Ipswich Crown Court involves a denial by the Portuguese 23-year-old that he used his set to watch television without a licence.

He was found guilty by magistrates in Ipswich in May but he has taken his appeal to the crown court in a bid to overturn a £550 fine.

That looks certain to set the taxpayer back thousands once the appeal is heard and legal aid and translaters are laid on for Bruno.

Despite the first stage of the appeal being just a 30-minute session, it wracked up a court bill of more than £1,000.

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That figure will at least triple when the case is heard again later this month and is set to escalate now Megual has been advised to seek legal aid – cash available to defendants who cannot afford their own lawyer.

He is arguing he should not have to buy a licence because he only uses the television in the bedroom of his Sirdar Road home to watch DVDs and play on his games console.

He says the other television in his house belongs to his landlord and that he never watches it.

Megual said: "I shouldn't have to buy a licence because the television downstairs in the house belongs to the landlord.

"I don't use it. It was already there when I came to the house and I haven't used it.

"I have a television in my bedroom but I also have a PlayStation 2 and a DVD player and I don't need a licence to play and watch on these."

The second hearing in the appeal is expected to last 90 minutes, which will take the costs up to at least £4,444 – not considering the legal aid offer.

The equivalent of 35 colour television licences, at £126.50 each, could have been bought with the money spent on the case.

Ross Taylor, manager at Ipswich Crown Court, said: "A court room here costs an average of £10,000 for the day, which to us is four-and-a-half hours.

"That includes a judge, staff, solicitors, interpreters and the jury if there is one.

"That's what we are here for though after all. That's the criminal justice system. It's people's right to appeal and our job to deal with it."

Megual was prosecuted by the TV Licence Enquiry Office after a visit by an officer in September last year.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: "TV Licensing would always prefer people to buy a licence rather than face prosecution."

When he was originally sentenced at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, Megual was ordered to pay a £550 fine for not having a licence and £40 court costs.

The appeal case is set to continue at Ipswich Crown Court on July 21.

Should the public purse have to foot the bill for this case? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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