TV licence fee evaders have been particularly inventive over the past 12 months in the excuses they have offered for not paying their dues, licensing chiefs have said.
Alongside the usual attempts to blame relatives or animals, bizarre logic and a lack of common sense ruled the list of implausible pretexts.
They included: “I’ve got no licence because when I called TV Licensing they refused to barter with me. Everything should be up for negotiation,” and “I don’t watch the television; I just use it as a light in the dark”.
Investigators faced an array of strange tales and delaying tactics, with one person declaring: “Can you call back later? I want to finish watching the end of this TV programme.”
TV Licensing caught more than 338,000 people watching TV without a licence over the first 10 months of this year.
Ian Fannon, TV Licensing spokesman, said: “No matter how creative people get with their excuses, watching or recording live TV without a licence is against the law.
“In fairness to those who pay the fee, we will prosecute those who try to avoid it, including the likes of the gentleman who refused to buy a licence unless we bartered with him. He was found guilty and fined by unimpressed magistrates.
“We’re effective at catching evaders, but we would always rather people pay than risk a fine of up to £1,000. To help those that may find it difficult to pay in one go, we offer a range of payment options to help spread the cost – all of which can be set up quickly and easily online or by phone if you prefer.”
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, added: “Your TV licence should be treated as a priority debt, alongside expenses such as your mortgage or rent, council tax and gas and electric bills.
“Those struggling with their finances should seek free, independent advice from a charitable organisation such as National Debtline or Citizens Advice. It is also worth noting that it is possible to pay your TV licence in weekly instalments at a PayPoint outlet, over the phone, online or via SMS by joining the cash payment plan.”