Benefit Fraud

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On the basis of being suspected of having committed a criminal offence in relation to your benefits, you may indeed receive a letter requesting you to attend an interview. The letter may also state quite clearly that failure to keep an appointment provided, may not prevent criminal proceedings taken against you. The letter will, of course, be signed by a variety of council investigators, with titles such as:

Benefits Enquiry Officer, Audit Officer or Senior Fraud Investigator‘.

The letter will inform you that the interview will need to be in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This means that dependant on what is told to the officer during the interview, proceedings may be taken against you.

Case Examples

R .v. F
St. Albans Magistrates Court

The Defendant, a trainee Graduate School Teacher, then a Qualified Secondary Teacher was charged in that he dishonestly failed to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions in the prescribed manner of a change of circumstances which he knew would affect entitlement to Carers Allowance, namely that he was in receipt of income from employment Contrary to section 111A (1a) AND (3) OF THE Social Security Administration Act in the amount of £3983.00.

This was a sixteen month period of Fraud.

A plea of Guilty was entered.

Penman Sedgwick were instructed and made submissions to the Court in Mitigation as to all the circumstances of the case and sentencing Guidelines.

Sentence

Fine: £327.00
Prosecution Costs: £85.00
Victim Surcharge: £33.00

Sentencing Guidelines

Not fraudulent from the outset, and fraud carried out over a significant period of time.
Starting point based on £2500 and less than £5000, Community Order (low) with a range Fine – Community Order (medium)



C .v. F
Derby Magistrates Court

Charges

With a view to obtaining for himself Jobseekers Allowance, a benefit advantage or other payment under relevant social security legislation, dishonestly made a statement or representation to the Department for Work and Pensions which was false, namely that the information given in the Jobseekers Allowance Customer Statement was correct and complete, whereas had failed to declare that he had capital in excess of permitted limits, namely a second property owned by his wife, Contrary to section 111A(1) (a) and (3) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

The overpayments amounted to £14,859.68.

We advised the client of the serious nature of the charges, and pleas of Guilty were entered.

The Magistrates by way of submissions accepted jurisdiction, rather than for the matter to be sent to the Crown Court.

Comprehensive mitigation was provided to the Court.

Sentence

  • Sentenced to a suspended sentence of imprisonment, 16 weeks suspended for 12 months.
  • Two requirements were attached: a 12 month Supervision requirement and an order to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
  • Costs of £100 were awarded, with 28 days to make payment subject to a collection order.
  • A victim surcharge of £80 was imposed.


L .v. H
Willesden Magistrates Court

Facts

The Defendant was charged under section 111A (1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 as amended, in respect of an amount of £28,966.96, composed of Housing Benefit, Council Tax and Income Support overpayments.

We made submissions in Court that the offence be reduced to a section 112 offence, and was accepted by the Court.

A Plea of Guilty was then entered, we made legal submissions, that there also be a stand down probation report and the Court retired to consider the sentence.

Sentence

  • Community order of 140 hours of unpaid work
  • Award of prosecution costs in the amount of £1,130.00

Note:
The above was a fraud carried over a period of time, and multiple. The starting point of sentence is 6 weeks custody, with a range of 12 weeks – 18 months custody.



T .v. K
St. Albans Magistrates Court

The Defendant was charged with two offences:

  • In the County of Hertford with a view to obtaining Council tax Benefit dishonestly made a statement or representation knowing to be false by way of indicating the information contained on a customer statement was correct and complete whereas it was not, and failed to disclose being a registered owner of a property, being in receipt of rental income, and a bank account contrary to Section 111A (1) (a) of the Social Security Act 1992.
  • In the County of Hertford with a view to obtaining jobseekers allowance dishonestly made a statement or representation knowing such information to be false, and failed to disclose being a registered owner of a property, and in receipt of rental income, and had a bank account, contrary to Section 111A (1)(a) of the Social Security Administration act 1992.

At Plea, a further two charges were served upon the Defendant, being 4 in total.

Representations were made to the prosecution and accepted that all four charges be amended to section 112 offences ( lesser offences ) and to which the Defendant then pleaded Guilty to all section 112 offences.

Sentence

  • 60 hours of unpaid work over a 12 month period
  • Ordered to pay £200 in prosecution costs


Q.v.B
St. Albans Magistrates Court

Defendant charged under Section 11 A(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, having obtained £30,146.94 in benefits whilst in employment, failing to notify the Department whilst in work and dishonestly making false statements.

Sentence

We provided submissions in mitigation and referred to legal authorities. As a result the sentence was a 4 month suspended custody for a period of 2 years, a supervision order for a period of 12 months, prosecution costs of £100.



Q .v. B and B
Watford Magistrates Court
St Albans Crown Court


The First Defendant was charged by way of Indictment in respect of:

  • Making dishonest false representation for benefit purposes, contrary to Section 1111A (1) (a) Of the Social Security Administration Act 1992; (Counts 1 and 2)
  • Obtaining money transfers by deception contrary to section 15 A of the Theft Act 1968 (Count 3)
  • Obtaining money transfers by deception contrary to Section 15A of the Theft Act 1968 (Count 4)
  • Making a dishonest false representation for benefit purposes, contrary to Section 111A (1) (a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. (Count 5)
  • Making a dishonest false representation for benefit purposes, contrary to Section 111A (1) (a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. (Count 6)

 
The First and Second Defendant were charged jointly by way of indictment in respect of:

  • Making a dishonest false representation for benefit purposes, contrary to Section 111A (1) (a) of the Social Security administration Act 1992. (Count 7)
  • Making a dishonest false representation for benefit purposes, contrary to Section 111A (1) (a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. (Count 8)
  • Evasion of liability by Deception, contrary to Section 2(1) of the Theft Act 1978. (Count 9).

 
In respect of the First and Second Defendant, after submissions to the Court, Count 9 was withdrawn.

The Second Defendant pleaded Guilty to Counts 6, 7 and 8., and the sentencing was accepted to be retained in the Magistrates Court after further submissions.

As a result, the Second Defendant was sentenced as follows:

  • 12 Month Community Order with a requirement to complete 250 hours of unpaid work. Prosecution costs awarded in the amount of £350.00.
  • A custodial sentence was considered by the Court at the time.
  • The First Defendant on Guilty pleas to Counts 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 was sent for Sentence to the St. Albans Crown Court. (After submissions, Counts 4, 5 and 9 were withdrawn)
  • The amount of the claim being £100,000


C .v. B
St Albans Crown Court

Sentence

On Count 3, Custody 32 weeks suspended for 18 months. On the remaining 5 Counts no separate penalty. Confiscation proceedings timetable set.

Note:
For Benefit Fraud, the Statutory Offence according to Sentencing Guidelines in the amount of £100,000 , being not fraudulent from the outset with a starting point of 2 years custody, and a range of 12 months to 3 years custody.



D .v . B
St.Albans Magistrates Court

The Defendant was charged, for the purpose of obtaining Jobseeker`s Allowance, dishonestly made a false representation in a customer statement that the information he had given was correct and complete whereas it was not because he failed to provide information about money owed or about money received from any other source, contrary to section 111A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

The alleged overpayment being £19,838.06

The matter went to trial at the Magistrates Court, Jurisdiction accepted rather than being sent to the Crown Court on submission.

The Defendant was found Guilty of the offence charged.

Our legal submissions of case law and argument, with mitigation on the defendant`s behalf, resulted in a 3 month suspended sentence for a period of 24 months with an unpaid work requirement of 120 hours, Prosecution costs of £650.

Law

This is an either way offence, triable before the Magistrates or Crown Court.

The starting point being 6 weeks custody, with a range to 26 weeks custody, or Community order (Medium) based on a starting point of £12,500 (but less than £20,000). The Defendant level was at £19,838.06.



D .v. G
Watford Magistrates Court

The Defendant was charged with dishonestly failing to notify promptly the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances that she knew would effect her entitlement to claim Widowed Mother`s Allowance, namely that she was living with a male, as if husband and wife, contrary to Section 111A (1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, having received the overpayment amount being £27,619.68.

The Law

A person shall be guilty of an offence, if there has been a change of circumstances affecting any entitlement of his to any benefit or other payment or advantage under any provision of the relevant social security legislation, the change is not a change that is excluded by regulations from the changes that are required to be notified; he knows that the changes affects an entitlement of his to such a benefit or other payments or advantage; and he dishonestly fails to give a prompt notification of that change in the prescribed manner to the prescribed person.

A person GUILTY of an offence under this section shall be liable if tried summarily in the Magistrates Court to a Level 5 fine and or 6 months custody. The matter if tried in the Crown Court on indictment,, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to a fine, or to both. This is an offence triable either way.

Submissions

Submissions were made to the Prosecutor that the charge be reduced to a lesser offence under Section 112 (1A) namely a failure to notify a change of circumstances without the element of dishonesty, which was accepted, and a plea of Guilty entered.

Further submissions were made on behalf of the Defendant in mitigation.

Sentence

The submissions were accepted by the Court, and the Defendant received a Conditional Discharge for a period of 12 months and Prosecution costs of £100.00.

The interview is conducted under caution, generally by two officers being present. You are not obliged to attend the interview under caution, but if you do not, in basic terms, it may indeed prove to make it very difficult to explain the facts and defend yourself if there is a prosecution.

A Solicitor may ask for Prior Disclosure, and on such basis the Solicitor would advise whether or not to answer questions or to hand in a written statement explaining clearly events from your perspective. Importantly, if evidence is introduced during the interview, the Solicitor would ask that the interview be stopped, in order for the evidence to be considered with you in private outside the interview room, or with the officer`s leaving the interview room.

Critical

On receiving a letter about an interview under caution do not talk to the benefit authorities, without obtaining advice from a solicitor. It is essential to use the professional services of a solicitor specialising in criminal defence.

Penman Sedgwick should be consulted to represent you.

Critical

It is critical that you do not attend an interview under caution on your own or without a professional legal advise, being a solicitor or an accredited legal representative. In the event that you attend an interview with a friend or a relative, they have no right to comment or help you in the interview. Even if an appropriate adult is present by way of requirement, you still need professional legal advice.

If you need any advice relating to benefit fraud please contact us, and we will respond as soon as possible, or call us on 01923 225212.


Penman Sedgwick Solicitors Watford