Charles Moore’s trial
10 May 2010
Hastings Magistrates Court
Asked by the Clerk to do so, Mr. Moore gives his name, address, and date of birth.
Clerk: Between 1 August 2009 and 9 December 2009 you used a colour television set
without a licence contrary to S. 363 of the Communications Act 2003. How do you
Mr. Moore: Not guilty.
Counsel for the Prosecution: Mr. Moore accepts the fact that he used a colour TV
receiver without a licence.
The Prosecution has prepared a submission on a single page which I will now read to
TVLA visited Mr. Moore’s premises and interviewed him. He admitted that between 1
August and 9 December 2009 he used a colour TV set without a valid TV licence. He
confirmed he was the author of the articles in Daily Telegraph and other publications
where he stated he would not pay his TV licence fee, while continuing to use his TV set,
until the BBC fires Jonathan Ross. It is his view that the BBC is in breach of its Royal
Charter by broadcasting offensive telephone calls made by Mr. Ross and failing to sack
In my submission, the offence under S. 363 of the Communications Act 2003 is an
absolute offence. There is no mental element. There are no defences to this offence. It
is enough for the Prosecution to show that the Accused used a TV receiver without a
licence for him to be found guilty.
Chairman: Mr. Moore, do you want to see a copy of the Prosecution’s submission first,
or are you happy to proceed now?
Mr. Moore: I am happy to proceed.
Clerk: Would you like to give evidence under the oath, or do you prefer to make a
submission from where you are?
Mr. Moore: I am not sure what is the difference.
Clerk explains the difference.
Mr. Moore elects to give evidence, takes place in the witness box and makes the oath.
Mr. Moore: The issue in this case is a matter of principle in relation to conscience. It
goes against my conscience to finance obscene and unlawful conduct by the BBC.
In October 2008 BBC Radio 2 broadcasted telephone calls by Russell Brand and Jonathan
Ross to Andrew Sachs with them leaving obscene and threatening messages on his
answering machine. The messages were offensive and insulting both to Mr. Sachs and to
the listeners. Although Brand then resigned, Jonathan Ross continues to be employed by
the BBC at 6 million pounds per year.
Mr argument is that by broadcasting the phone calls and then failing to sack Mr. Ross
for what he has done, the BBC is in breach of its Royal Charter. The Charter states in S.
3 that the BBC exists to serve the public interest and the BBC’s main object is the
promotion of certain ‘public purposes’, such as ’stimulating creativity and cultural
excellence (S.s. 4(c)). The BBC’s mission includes taking a lead in setting high standards
Clearly, the broadcast in question was the exact opposite of this. Following an
investigation, the BBC Trust itself admitted the broadcast was ‘grossly offensive’ and
‘abuse of privilege granted to the BBC’.
The citizen has a common law duty to prevent unlawful acts from occurring. It follows
that the citizen cannot have a duty to pay for, or otherwise contribute to, an unlawful
Being forced to pay the TV licence in the circumstances would infringe my rights under
Article 9 ECHR (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion). European Commission of
Human Rights found in Darby v. Sweden that a tax for a specific purpose of financing a
church infringed Article 9 rights of a citizen who was not a member of that church.
It is against my conscience that I am forced to pay a TV licence to a corporation
operating on ideological principles I do not share. It is offensive to my conscience to
finance its obscene and unlawful acts.
So, in July 2009, I kept my promise given to the public in my earlier article and did not
renew my TV licence.
Now it has been announced that the BBC shall sack Jonathan Ross before July 2010, so I
will renew my TV licence this year.
I did not try to hide from the TVLA. I informed them from the outset that I would not
pay, and explained my reasons. I did not do this to save money, and I paid an equivalent
of the licence fee to the charity Help the Aged in sympathy to Mr. Sachs.
In these circumstances, there is no authority for a citizen to be forced to pay the TV
licence, thus financing the unlawful actions by the BBC.
Prosecution: The offence under S. 363 is an absolute offence of strict liability. In these
circumstances, Mr. Moore’s reasons for not paying the TV licence are irrelevant.
The nature of TV licence is similar to any other licence. It permits somebody to do
something that would otherwise have been unlawful. Watching TV without a TV licence
is unlawful in this country.
Mr. Moore’s reasons may go to mitigate the sentence, but they are not relevant to the
question of whether he is guilty or not guilty. Similarly, the question of the BBC’s alleged
breach of its Charter is irrelevant because of the strict liability. However, it should be
noted that the Charter provides for a number of remedies of grievances which
spectators and listeners may have against the BBC, e. g. the complaints procedure. The
Charter does not provide that the existence of such grievances may be a defence to the
offence under S. 363 of Communications Act 2003. Mr. Moore could have used the
procedure for complaints to the BBC Trust, to the Director of the BBC, to OFCOM or
other regulatory bodies; if necessary, he could have applied for judicial review. But he
cannot use his grievances in this Court to manufacture a defence which does not exist.
As for the points raised about Article 9 ECHR, in Darby v. Sweden the European Court did
not actually use Article 9 but concentrated on Article 14. Let me explain how the
Strasbourg procedure works. The Commission only rules whether a case is admissible to
the Court; if it is, it then proceeds to the Court. In Darby, the Commission ruled that the
Swedish authorities were in breach of Article 14 and potentially in breach of Article 9.
The Court then only dealt with Article 14 and did not take up the points in relation to
As a European case, Darby does not provide a binding authority for this Court.
In any case, while Darby dealt with a tax, the TV licence is not a tax. It is a statutory
requirement for a licence. A citizen is not obliged to pay the TV licence; he merely
cannot use a TV receiver without it. This cannot be compared to taxation.
It is true that Mr. Moore did not try to evade the licence fee or hide from the TVLA. His
campaign has been very public.
If the Bench wishes to see any of the authorities I cited, I am happy to hand them up.
Clerk: Mr. Moore, do you want to add anything?
Mr. Moore: [Inaudible]
Clerk, advising the Bench, reads out Section 363 of the Communications Act 2003. There
are no defences set out in this section which could be relevant today. The offence is one
of strict liability.
As a Magistrates Court, you must take European cases into account, but you are not
bound by them. You must consider them in conjunction with the domestic legislation. If
there are conflicting provisions, the domestic legislation must prevail.
Chairman: Thank you. We will retire.
The justices return about 20 minutes later.
Chairman: Mr. Moore, you have been charged with using TV set without a licence,
which is an offence under S. 363 of Communications Act 2003.
We have considered the facts of the case, the issues of strict liability, the BBC’s alleged
breach of the Royal Charter, and the points raised in relations to Article 9 ECHR.
We found that you used a TV set without a licence. The offence is one of strict liability,
and therefore we found you to be guilty.
Chairman then enquires about Mr. Moore’s financial means.
Prosecution: We are claiming the costs of £560. This does not reflect the total amount
of money we spent on this prosecution. For example, it does not include my fees. It
includes the work of the solicitor and the TVLA inspector who visited Mr. Moore’s
premises and interviewed him.
Mr. Moore: Regarding the TVLA visits. When I refused to pay the licence, I contacted the
TVLA and offered to make an appointment. They would not do that. Instead, they chose
to make visits to my home, without notice, thus incurring additional costs for
themselves. It would not be fair for me to pay those costs.
Regarding the work of the solicitor: if this is an offence of strict liability, surely preparing
the case could not be so complicated as to incur so high costs?
The justices then retire for about 5 minutes.
Chairman: Mr. Moore, we have our guidelines, so you will have to pay a fine of £260.
We have taken account of what you said about the TVLA visits to you premises, and
reduced the costs for £30.
Are you prepared to pay right away?
Mr. Moore: Yes.