Almost a third of women's convictions are for not paying the TV licence fee, new figures have revealed.
Data released by the Ministry of Justice shows women are almost ten times more likely to be convicted for not paying their TV licence than men - with growing numbers of women being slapped with criminal records for not paying the fee.
The Ministry of Justice report admits the chief factor why so many women wind up being prosecuted is due to the fact they are more likely to open the door to inspectors.
Dame Vera Baird, QC, the victims' commissioner, is in favour of non-payment of the TV licence fee being decriminalised and argued it penalises less well off women.
She said: “I remain concerned that so many women are prosecuted for TV licence evasion. It's an unnecessary conviction serving only to criminalise poverty and disproportionately punish poorer families and women.”
Some 74 per cent of the 114,000 convictions for licence fee dodging in 2019 were women’s - a surge of three per cent since 2015.
Kate Paradine, chief executive of Women in Prison, said: “Debt-related issues should not be criminalised. The 30 per cent figure shows how many women are criminalised for extraordinarily minor so-called offences. Even when you get down to all convictions and look at women in prison and arrests, the majority are there for very low level offences.”
Only one per cent of the almost 4,000 women who are presently in prison are inside for violent offences, the fresh data shows. On the other hand, around nine in ten women prisoners carried out a minor crime, with around a third linked to shoplifting or theft.
Some 72 per cent of all prosecutions for TV licencing were against women back in 2018. While in 2017 the offence constituted 30 per cent of all prosecutions against women - meaning it was the most common offence women were prosecuted of.
Frontline service providers have frequently warned that women in prison are often the victims of more serious offences than those for which they have been convicted. A previous report from the Prison Reform Trust found 80 per cent of women in jail were there for non-violent offences.
Appeal, a leading charity which battles miscarriages of justice, has been campaigning for TV licensing non-payment to be decriminalised for years.
Millions of over-75s became liable for paying the TV licence fee during the summer in the wake of the controversial choice to make older viewers pay the annual £157.50 sum. Those who are older than 75 and get pension credit do not have to fork out for the fee.