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Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss has promised to look into decriminalising TV licence evasion over concerns of how the offence disproportionately affects women, if she becomes prime minister.
Currently, anyone who watches live TV or BBC iPlayer has to pay an annual fee of £159, or face a court appearance and fine of up to £1,000, which can turn into jail time if the fine is not paid.
Recent figures have shown the offence is far more likely to affect women than men – with 22.61% of all crimes committed by women in 2020 being licence fee evasion.
In comparison, 2.15% of all crimes committed by men were licence fee evasion.
Ministry of Justice figures show there is currently no one behind bars for the offence.
Tory leadership hopeful Truss said she would "look at all the options" to overhaul the system in the hope of making it fairer.
She told Mail+: "What I’m very concerned about on the TV licence fee is how many women have ended up in prison for non-payment, a disproportionate number.
"I want to look at how we can make sure that we reform the TV licence fee, so we don’t end up with those punitive results. I’ll look at all the options... I do want to reform the way it works."
A 10-year BBC Charter means the licence fee cannot be abolished before 2027.
The independent Perry Review in 2015 found that the current system was "fair and proportionate", recommending the prosecution guidelines should continue to be followed for "as long as the existing system of licence fee collection [is] in operation".
The Conservative government at the time - led by David Cameron - accepted the findings.
Leadership rival Rishi Sunak has said he will look at scrapping the licence altogether if he is to become prime minister.
But culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who is backing Truss to become leader, claimed this week that Sunak had blocked the review during his time as chancellor.
Ministers had launched a consultation in February 2020 over concerns the "criminal sanction is unfair and disproportionate", but decided not to move forward with plans.
Dorries said that Sunak "refused to sign off" on a fresh review and blocked it for "many months."
She added: "I appealed to Rishi but he refused to budge. I spoke to him again just after cabinet on the morning of the day he launched his coup.
"He flashed me that smile and said something which amounted to nothing.
The fee funds nearly 85% of the annual budgets of French public broadcasters, but the abolition was proposed by newly re-elected president Emmanuel Macron as part of his manifesto.
In 2022, the licence free brought in €3.2bn (£2.67bn), but will now be funded by what Macron said was a "fraction of VAT".
A BBC spokesman said: "There is always a debate to be had about the best way to manage non-payment of the licence fee, but the independent Perry Review [of 2015] found the current system to be fair and proportionate, and according to the latest Ministry of Justice figures, nobody is in prison for not paying the licence fee."