Pensioner defiant over TV licence fine

Richard Behal at Killarney District Court yesterday

Anne Lucey

A pensioner has six months to pay €390 after refusing to get a television licence for almost 25 years because he was excluded from an RTE show.

But 69-year-old Richard Behal, of Arbutus Grove, Killarney, said he would not be paying the €300 fine and €90 costs.

Mr Behal has been prosecuted a number of times on the issue and was jailed on one occasion for refusing to pay the fines. And, yesterday, he admitted he still hasn't paid up despite admitting to having a television when the licence inspector called to his home two years ago.

The loss to the State was €287, the An Post inspector told Killarney District Court yesterday.

Representing himself, Mr Behal contested the charge of not having a colour television licence on December 13, 2005, saying his human rights had been violated when he was excluded from an RTE broadcast as a Sinn Fein candidate in 1984.

Clutching a folder of correspondence over more than two decades, Mr Behal said he had stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in the 1984 European elections in Munster.

But because of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act then in force, RTE did not include a live interview with him on an election programme. As a result, he has not paid his licence since 1984.

"That is not democracy," Mr Behal said, urging Judge O'Connor to strike a blow for democracy.

However, the judge rejected his argument and fined him €300 and €90 costs with six months to pay.