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Benefit Fraud Case Examples and Outcomes

Benefit Fraud Cases

If you have been charged with an offence involving benefit fraud – or you know someone who has – you might be interested to know what has happened in other benefit fraud cases.

In particular, you might want to know how different cases were treated, what might happen to existing benefits payments, what punishments were given for those found guilty, and where to turn yourself if you need more help.

benefit fraud

English law does not provide a specific offence for ‘benefit fraud’. Instead, people are charged with a type of general fraud. General fraud can take many forms, and as such it is useful to compare several instances of benefits-related general fraud to understand how different cases might be treated. In the remainder of this article, we explain how general fraud offences are defined and what the punishments could be, and we outline multiple cases for you to compare and contrast to understand different cases are treated.

How is benefit fraud defined?

The UK government defines benefit fraud as the act of obtaining state benefit to which a person is not entitled, or deliberately failing to report a change in personal circumstances (one that affects benefits entitlement). Under English law, there is no specific offence of ‘benefit fraud’ per se. Rather, the act that represents benefit fraud fits – for the most part – under the umbrella of general fraud offences, which are governed by the Fraud Act 2006.

The Fraud Act 2006 recognises three types of general fraud:

  1. fraud by false representation
  2. fraud by failure to disclose information when there is a legal duty to do so
  3. fraud by abuse of position

Benefits-related fraud can involve any one of these types of general fraud, and it is important to note that a person may be charged and prosecuted with one of these types of fraud even if there was no actual loss suffered by the benefits provider. In England, the main benefits providers are local authorities, with certain benefits and oversight provided as necessary by:

  • the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA)

In cases where there is no actual loss suffered by these agencies – who, despite being large government agencies, are still seen as the victims of the crime – the prosecution will seek prove that causing a loss to another was the intention of the defendant. If this is proven successfully, there is a still the possibility of conviction.

Where tax credits in particular are the subject of the fraud, the offence may fall under section 35 of the Tax Credits Act 2002, which created a specific crime for tax credit fraud. Additionally, where a person commits benefit fraud by falsifying accounts, a specific offence was created by section 17 of the Theft Act 1968.

Typically, benefit fraud looks like:

  • failing to declare savings when claiming benefits
  • claiming benefits from a false address
  • failing to declare that someone else lives at an address
  • falsifying the number of hours worked per week
  • faking a disability or other status that entitles someone to benefits
  • using a false identity document to claim benefits
  • lying about household income on an application for benefits
  • failing to notify the authorities of receipt of an inheritance payment or other large sum of money (for example, lottery winnings)
  • submitting multiple claims under false names

A benefit fraud offence may also be committed where someone works with other people to defraud a benefits provider but does not necessarily defraud the provider directly themselves. This is the common law offence (meaning the offence was created by the courts rather than a particular Act of Parliament) known as ‘conspiracy to defraud’.

What is the maximum sentence for benefit fraud?

As mentioned earlier, benefit fraud is most often treated as one of the three types of general fraud, and as such most sentences are prescribed by the Fraud Act 2006. That Act states that the maximum sentence is six months’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine in the magistrate’s court, and ten years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.

For tax credit fraud and false accounting offences, the maximum sentence is seven years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Finally, for those that did not directly defraud a benefits provider but nonetheless were involved (conspiracy to defraud cases), the maximum sentence is ten years’ imprisonment.

Longer sentences, naturally, are given for more serious offences. The Sentencing Council uses the following factors to decide which defendants are more culpable than others, and thus which defendants to punish more harshly. To be found more culpable, a defendant will have:

  • played a leading role where offending is part of a group activity
  • involved other people through pressure or influence
  • abused their position of power or trust or responsibility
  • acted in a sophisticated manner with significant planning
  • sustained the fraudulent activity over a period of time
  • affected a large number of victims
  • deliberately targeted victim on the basis of their vulnerability

As with all crimes, it is the judge that will ultimately decide how serious a given offence is based on the arguments made by the prosecution and defence in court, and the available evidence. In practice, the range of punishments varies considerably between cases.

Benefit fraud case examples

When going through the cases on the following table, remember that not every case is treated alike and that, if you have been charged, your sentence may end up being different to those stated here. To get a clear understanding of what punishment you might face if found guilty, contact a qualified and experienced benefit fraud solicitor and ask for their professional opinion.

 

Fraudulent Act Judgment Date Financial Loss Sentence Link to Transcript
Faking a disability 15/12/2016 £15,000 6 months’ imprisonment

View Case

Failure to report living with partner 15/02/2015 £60,000 4 months’ imprisonment View Case
Failure to report new employment 10/02/2016 £3,490 3 months’ community order

View Case

 

Failure to declare inheritance 30/01/2015 £33,500 12 months’ imprisonment

View Case

 

Failure to declare new household income 15/09/2016 £40,000 12 months’ imprisonment

View Case

 

Conspiracy to defraud 10/10/2012 £68,095 20 months’ imprisonment

View Case

 

Failing to declare residence at two addresses 08/10/2015 £16,649 12 months’ curfew; £1000 fine

View Case

 

Multiple failures to disclose new circumstances 06/08/2010 £33,952 14 months’ imprisonment

View Case

 

Falsifying accounts to get numerous benefits 28/05/2011 £46,000 32 months’ imprisonment

View Case

 

Conspiracy to commit tax credit fraud 04/04/2012 £12,023 7 months’ imprisonment, suspended.

View Case

 

Failure to declare student finance 17/06/2011 £6,216 Acquitted View Case

Can my benefits be stopped if I am found guilty of benefit fraud?

Yes. It stands to reason that if you commit benefit fraud, the government may act to reduce or stop altogether your benefits. The government has a list of ‘sanctionable benefits’, which are those that can be subject to restriction in the event of someone being found guilty of benefit fraud. According to the Gov.uk website, sanctionable benefits are:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Industrial Death Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Reduced Earnings Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Retirement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Unemployability Supplement
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • War Disablement Pension
  • War Widow’s Pension
  • War Pension Unemployability Supplement
  • War Pension Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation
  • Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
  • Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit

A number of benefits will not be reduced or stopped altogether, however, even if you are found guilty of benefit fraud (although please note that your entitlement for them may change if you lied about that in the first place). These include:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Bereavement Payment
  • Bereavement Support Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Christmas Bonus
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Graduated Retirement Benefit
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • State Pension
  • Social Fund Payments
  • War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

Finally, there are special circumstances for recipients of certain benefit payments. If you receive one of the following types of benefit, none of your payments (from either of the above two lists) can be stopped, even if you are found guilty of benefit fraud:

  • Maternity Allowance
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay

Where next for help with benefit fraud

To get more information about how benefit fraud is treated under English criminal law, and to obtain specific advice about any case against you or someone you care about, contact the experts at Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our friendly non-judgemental team will help you understand what might happen in your case and can work with you to mount a strong defence if your case goes to trial. To arrange a consultation, please get in touch with us today.

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