Thursday 21 November 2019

An Post defends decision to prosecute blind woman twice for not having TV licence

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A woman who lost her sight during a serious assault 10 years ago has been prosecuted twice for not having a TV licence.

Suzanne O'Connor (48) cannot see her television, but listens to the programmes "for company and background noise".

She is entitled to a free TV licence as she has been granted disability but has been brought to court by An Post on two separate occasions.

Speaking to, local Sinn Fein councillor Sorca Clarke branded the incident a 'disgrace'.

"Suzanne is a remarkable woman," she said.

"She is resilient and she has a fantastic support structure around her, which many people in her situation don't have.

"Suzanne was also strong enough to go to court... some people in the same situation would not be as strong.

"Someone in An Post made this decision, to go ahead to the court with this case twice and this person needs to be held to account," Cllr Clarke said.

Ms O'Connor, from Westmeath, was originally taken to court by An Post in March following a visit by a TV licence inspector during which she said her cane and her special glasses were fully visible.

The first case was struck out, but she received a letter from An Post's solicitor just two weeks later again.

Suzanne had applied for the Household Benefits Package, which includes a free TV licence, but the package had not arrived yet.

She said the case has caused her 'undue stress' and said it was 'a waste of court time and resources'.

During her second court appearance, Judge Seamus Hughes told the court he believed people who are blind should not be prosecuted for having a TV licence.

He adjourned the second case until November 12 and ordered that Ms O'Connor be paid expenses.

"The date has been adjourned and Suzanne will go back again," Westmeath County Cllr Clarke said.

"In fairness, the judge should be commended.

"There are far too many incidents when people who have a physical disability are somehow made to feel less and aren't seen as capable as those who don't have a disability.

"Suzanne doesn't let her disability hold her back and the judge recognised this is the courtroom," she continued. 

"I wrote to An Post after Suzanne was prosecuted the first time.

"I had gone to An Post and said Suzanne didn't have the disability package yet and requested any legal action to be stopped.

"This woman is entitled to a free TV licence. She was seriously injured as a result of an assault.

"It is not complicated. It should never have been brought to court. 

"My phone number was on the headed paper on the letter to An Post, anybody could have contacted me.

"Suzanne's address is available to anyone in An Post - anyone could have come and spoke to Suzanne.

"Someone should have allowed common sense to prevail," he added.

A spokesperson for An Post said they could not comment on individual cases but added that: "Generally all addresses which have a television are obliged by law to have a current TV Licence. Either paid or free."

"The decision to award a free licence is made by the Department of Social Protection.

"An Post has no involvement in the awarding of a free licence.

"If and when a free licences is awarded the Department of Social Protection notifies An Post and we update our records accordingly.

"To date there is no record of a free licence being awarded in this case."

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