MORE than 850 young Hampshire viewers were caught illegally watching TV in the past year.

All aged between 18 and 25, a total of 864 people in the county were caught viewing live television without a licence, according to new figures.

It means the total of fines faced by those caught rose to £864,000 in the last 12 months.

Research by TV Licensing found that across the UK, 33,000 youngsters were caught in the same period.

A licence is needed to watch any live television or BBC iPlayer on any device, with those found to be avoiding payment facing a fine of up to £1,000.

Despite the warnings, 278 people in Southampton were caught over the course of the research, which runs between September 2016 and August.

TV Licensing is warning students to pay their licence, with 78 per cent of undergraduates aged 24 and under.

Ben Craig, for TV Licensing in the south east, said: “With many students owning at least one device capable of showing live TV or watching BBC iPlayer, it’s important they know the law around being correctly licensed.

“If you’re watching live TV on any device, including mobiles and tablets, or watch catch up programmes on BBC iPlayer, you need a TV licence.

“Students and young adults need to be aware of their legal responsibilities. Anyone caught watching TV without a licence can face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.”

As well as Southampton, Portsmouth saw 129 people illegally view TV, with 68 in Gosport.

Ben added: “If students are concerned about paying for a TV licence, they should get in touch. We know some people struggle to pay, and there are many payment options available, from paying in one go to spreading the cost over the year.”