As part of Anti-Bullying Month, TV Licensing is launching a campaign to tackle the increasing problem of verbal and physical attacks on its enquiry officers who visit unlicensed properties.
Attacks on TV Licensing enquiry officers have more than doubled in the last year. In the last financial year, 89 enquiry officers were victims of physical assaults by members of the public. This is up from 37 in the previous year and included several instances in which staff were admitted to hospital.
In total, 360 enquiry officers faced physical and verbal assaults in the last financial year, including attacks across Northern Ireland.
Many officers have had death threats made to them after knocking on doors, while others have been punched and spat at, had TVs thrown at them and also been filmed whilst being abused, with clips posted on YouTube.
In a shocking incident in Northern Ireland, an officer said: “I’ve been in the job 20 years. Even after 20 years the job is different every day and it never fails to surprise me.
“Last July I was assaulted. I was punched in the face by the occupier, followed back to my car where he tried to smash the car window, then followed me for five miles.
“There’s nothing I can personally do to prevent videos being uploaded to YouTube, though it is unpleasant when they are edited and only show one side of the conversation.”
Colin Jones, TV Licensing Field Operations Director, said, “The threats our officers can receive when they are just trying to carry out their role is completely unacceptable. Those who attack them seem to forget they are human beings.
“They do a great job, remaining professional and courteous in sometimes very challenging circumstances and we do everything we can to support them. This includes reporting serious threats and abuse to the police.”
Supporting the campaign is the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.
NIIRTA Chief Executive, Glyn Roberts, said: “We at the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association condemn these despicable attacks on the enquiry officers who work on behalf of TV Licensing.
“We represent staff across Northern Ireland and find it abhorrent that people are victim to such abuse for simply trying to go out and earn a living. We must send out a strong message that these attacks will not be tolerated in our community.”