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Licence dodgers make unhappy viewing

Rocketing numbers of north Kent viewers are being caught without a TV licence.

Almost 400 fee dodgers were caught in Dartford and Gravesend during the first six months of this year. The number of illegal viewers - 380 - is up about 18 per cent on the total number for the whole of 2007 - 323.

Dartford residents are fast becoming some of the worst offenders in Kent. A total of 55 licence fee evaders were caught in the borough last year, but already 198 have been found out in just the first six months of 2008.

The borough has now moved up to 10th place from 22nd in TV Licensing’s league of shame for Kent, which is topped by Chatham, where 416 people were caught between January and June this year.

Gravesham residents do not fare much better. Last year 268 were brought to book, almost double the figure for 2006, which was 145. And in the first six months of this year 182 people have already been caught. But the borough has dropped one place in the league of shame, to 14th.

TV owners who do not pay the annual licence fee, £139.50 for colour and £47 for black and white televisions, run the risk of prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000 if caught.

A spokesman for TV Licensing, which has caught more than 200,000 evaders since the start of 2008, said rising fuel and food costs could well be a factor in viewers refusing to pay up.

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