Well, friends, I’m off to jail some time in 2014. I haven’t broken any laws or done anything wrong, and there is not one shred of evidence to say I have.
My ‘crime’ is not having a TV licence. I don’t have one because I don’t own a TV. The concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been abandoned as an old-fashioned inconvenience. When I am released, I still won’t have a TV licence and will, presumably be put back in jail. Or perhaps I will never be released.
I received a letter, saying that a legal hearing is to be held to decide my sentence. I haven’t been told when or where. If I’m allowed to attend, I will have to prove a negative (that I don’t own a TV), which is impossible. I will be fined £1,000 ($1,650), the letter says. I will not pay the fine, because I’m innocent. I imagine I’ll be taken from the Court straight to the pokey.
This is Britain, where, to paraphrase Tony Hancock, Magna Carta apparently did die in vain.
The one thing I am guilty of is failing to conform to the Government’s idea of how people should live. Being different is now a criminal offence. It is said that the truth will set you free. Telling the truth will not set me free. It will send me to jail.
The villain of the piece is the Television Licensing Authority (TVLA), which is an arm of the BBC, which is an arm of the Government. I have told the TVLA over and over and over again that I do not have a TV. They always accuse me of lying. I told the man they sent round to inspect my apartment that I didn’t have a TV and, indeed, I didn’t and don’t have one. Still, it’s the Graybar Hotel for me.
Ten percent of all prosecutions in Britain are brought by the TVLA, who extract £146.50 (about $250) annually from those who buckle to their demands, whether they have a TV or not.
Will I be allowed to take my computer to jail? Probably not. Probably don’t want to. So this will be among the last of my columns. I’ll go on writing until I’m incarcerated, although I might seem depressed. The joy went out of life when the news arrived, on Christmas Eve.
I weep for my country. I weep for democracy. I weep for those who gave their lives in vain in two World Wars, to stop the march of Fascism. And I shed a tear for myself, to tell the truth. I don’t want to go to jail. No hope for a pretty boy like me. Should I buy a legally unnecessary licence to avoid it? Hell, no.
Let me close by saying that being different ought not to be a crime, and the BBC ought to make TV programmes, not jail innocent people.