No licence for abuse...

Charlene Boucher TV Licensing Enforcement Officer Charlene Boucher cannot understand what gives people the right to be so abusive

As part of Anti-Bullying Month, TV Licensing has launched 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, with 360 officers facing physical and verbal assaults.

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 where staff were admitted to hospital.

Many officers have had death threats, 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.

'He started going ballistic'

We spoke to Charlene Boucher, pictured, an enforcement officer for two years, about her experience.

"If someone is not in, we post a card through the letterbox which gives occupants the opportunity to sort out a license before we go back," she said. "I'd done this and, unbeknown to me, a man had followed me in his car to my next call.

"After leaving the house, he started giving me the most terrible abuse, it was unbelievable.

"When I got back to my car, I noticed that he had keyed it really badly. I could have cried because it was a nice car which I had only just got. I am single and have to pay for things like that myself so it was really upsetting.

"Another scary incident was when a very nice and somewhat timid lady invited me into her house. I went upstairs to the living room where the TV was and this really large man started going totally ballistic and shouting really loudly. He denied having a TV even though he was standing right next to one!

"He ordered me out and followed me closely down the stairs. I was convinced he was going to push me down.

'Just doing a job'

"It's sad that people can treat you like that when you are just doing a job. We are only human with human feelings and I cannot understand how people think they have the right to be abusive just because of the job we do.

"When I go to people's houses I am always polite and respectful and do everything I can to help them. Yet there is a small minority of people who feel it is acceptable to abuse me because of the job I do."

Colin Jones, TV Licensing Field Operations Director, said: "The threats our officers can receive when they are just trying to carry out their role are 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."

Actor and comedian Rob Delaney is lending support to TV Licensing's campaign to raise awareness of the verbal and physical abuse of TV Licensing staff, as part of Anti-Bullying Month.

Rob hosted a workshop for enquiry officers to provide advice on how to tackle rude and aggressive customers.

Watch him run through the challenging scenarios faced by Enforcement Officers, offering humorous solutions aiming to disarm examples of swearing, abuse and other difficult behaviour.

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