Northern Ireland

Licence fee evaders' bizarre excuses revealed

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Image caption More than 17,300 people in NI were caught without a licence in the first 10 months of 2010

What do drunk boyfriends, house-invading squirrels, and Buddhism have in common?

Well, they are all excuses used by people in Northern Ireland for not paying their television licence fee.

It might be the oldest trick in the book but more than 17,300 people in NI were caught without a licence in the first 10 months of 2010.

Belfast, Armagh and Dungannon have the worst reputation when it comes to paying the £145.50 a year fee.

TV licensing spokesperson Deborah King said she has encountered an array of colourful excuses so far this year.

They include a woman who claimed her boyfriend ate her licence payment card when he was drunk.

Another person insisted they did not watch their television and just used it as a light in the dark, while someone else declared they did not need a licence because they lived like a Buddha.

Deborah added: "We have had a number of really strange ones this year.

"Somebody said their house was invaded by a squirrel, who went to the toilet on their TV, and now it does not work anymore.

"We were not persuaded by that."

Enquiry officers faced an array of other unashamed tales and delaying tactics, with one person even asking: "Can you call back later? I want to finish watching the end of this TV programme."

Although some of the excuses do raise a smile Ms King said evading the licence fee is a serious issue.

She added: "I think the important point to get across here is no matter how creative your excuses, if you are watching or recording live television without a licence you are breaking the law.

"We do understand some people find it difficult to pay and there are lots of ways to spread the cost of your licence if you are in that situation.

"Of course there are people who think they can push it to the limit. But they are breaking the law.

"Too be fair to those who do pay you have to be firm with those who do not."

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