MORE than 1,000 people were caught watching TV without a valid licence in Hartlepool last year.
Officers from TV Licensing caught 1,140 people in the town watching television without paying for a licence in 2011.
A total of 480 people were caught watching TV without a valid licence in Peterlee, in 2011, and almost 390,000 across the UK as a whole.
Bosses say the majority of people are keeping to the law as the estimated evasion rate remains steady at around five per cent, as it has done for the last five years.
This means the vast majority of people, or 19 out of 20 households and businesses, are correctly licensed in accordance with the legal requirements.
Tim Downs, TV Licensing spokesman for Northern England, said: “TV viewing is as popular as ever, with the percentage of households who have a television set at 96.7 per cent.
“It’s our role to make sure everyone is aware of when they need to be covered by a licence.
“On behalf of licence fee payers in Hartlepool we are committed to tackling evasion and enforcing the law among the small minority who should pay, but don’t. It’s only fair.
“People are given every opportunity to pay, but, if they fail to do so and watch TV illegally, we will seek a prosecution.
“It’s really not worth the risk.”
People evading paying for a licence face a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs and a victim surcharge.
Anyone found guilty is also required to buy a TV Licence at £145.50 if they still need one or they could face a second prosecution.
TV Licensing bosses say they want to make it as easy as possible for people to pay for a licence and therefore offer numerous ways to spread the cost, including Direct Debit and a weekly or monthly cash payment plan.
For more information on payments call 0300 7906112 or log on to www.tvlicensing.co.uk.