Man who refused to pay his TV licence fee for 21 years jailed

 

A 66-year-old Killarney man who has been refusing to pay his television licence fee for 21 years was imprisoned yesterday after failing to pay a fine for not having a licence.

Richard Behal stood as a Sinn Féin candidate in the 1984 European elections in Munster.

Because of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act then in force, RTÉ did not include a live interview with him on an election programme. All other eight candidates appeared live on the programme.

Behal, who is no longer a member of a political party and describes himself as an "independent republican", claims he was disadvantaged by not appearing live on the programme and has since refused to pay his television licence fee.

He has been involved in a number of court cases on the issue. In July 2003 he failed in an appeal to the Circuit Court against a District Court conviction for not paying his licence fee. Behal argued that he was entitled to withhold his licence fee on account of his treatment under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act.

Judge Carroll Moran refused the appeal in the Circuit Court, saying it was a matter for a higher court, and ordered him to pay €200 in fines and €65 expenses.

Speaking from his home in Killarney, Co Kerry, shortly before being taken to Cork Prison yesterday, Behal said he was prepared to spend up to 15 nights in prison rather than pay "one cent" of the fine.

He also asked family and friends not to pay the fine, saying the issue was "a matter of deep principle" for him.