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Fraud Offences Articles

What happens for a first offence of fraud by false representation?

Insurance Fraud

Fraud by false representation is a serious criminal offence with severe penalties for those finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. If you or someone you care about is facing a charge for fraud by false representation or is already being prosecuted for such for the first time, getting as much information about the offence and what happens for first time offenders is imperative. Not only is this wise from a defence standpoint, but it can be very reassuring to have familiarity with the process, too. In this article, we outline the offence of fraud by false representation and answer some of the most common questions we get about what happens when you are a first time offender found guilty of this offence.

What is the offence of fraud by false representation?

Fraud by false representation is an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. It is one of the primary ways in which fraud can be committed, according to the Act, and thus is a common offence in England and Wales.

Under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, a person is in breach of the law where they dishonestly make a false representation, and intend, by making the representation, to make a gain for themselves or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

For a prosecution to secure a conviction for fraud by false representation, the following elements must be proven:

  • False representation. The defendant must have made a representation that is untrue or misleading.
  • Knowledge that the representation was or might be untrue or misleading. The defendant must have known that the representation was, or might be, untrue or misleading.
  • The defendant’s conduct must have been dishonest. This is generally an objective test. In other words, the defendant must have realised that what they were doing was dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest people – not whatever they thought was honest or dishonest at the time.
  • Intent to make a gain or cause loss. The defendant must have intended to make a gain for themselves or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss as a result of the false representation.

The offence of fraud by false representation can attract significant penalties, including imprisonment and fines, and can be tried either summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court) or on indictment (in the Crown Court). The specific penalties can vary depending on the severity of the fraud (determined by the level of culpability of the offender and the harm caused) and the broader circumstances of the case.

What are some examples of fraud by false representation?

Examples of this offence include:

  • Credit card fraud – using someone else’s card details to make purchases.
  • Identity theft – pretending to be someone else to commit financial fraud.
  • Ponzi schemes – misleading investors about the profitability of an investment.
  • Insurance fraud – submitting false information on an insurance claim.
  • Phishing – impersonating a reputable company to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information.
  • Property fraud – falsifying documents to gain unlawfully in property transactions.
  • Job scams – advertising fake job opportunities to gain sensitive information or fees.
  • Fake cheque scams – sending a fake cheque and asking the recipient to wire some money back.
  • Online sales scams – misrepresenting a product’s condition, authenticity, or origin on an online marketplace.

What happens if you are suspected of committing fraud by false representation in the UK?

If you are suspected of committing fraud by false representation in the UK, you are likely to face investigation and possible prosecution under the Fraud Act 2006. As mentioned, fraud by false representation is covered by Section 2 of the Act.

Here’s a general outline of what could happen if you are suspected of committing fraud by false representation:

  • Initial investigation. If there is suspicion of fraud by false representation, the police or another regulatory body (such as the Serious Fraud Office) will begin an investigation. This may involve gathering evidence like paper documents, digital records, and witness testimonies. They may also interview you under caution, which means that anything you say could be used as evidence against you. You are entitled to have a solicitor present during this interview, and it is highly recommended that you do so.
  • Arrest or voluntary interview. You may be arrested, or you may be asked to attend a voluntary interview at a police station. Even if it is a voluntary interview, it remains a very serious matter and you should know that even though you are not under arrest in a voluntary interview, it could still lead to charges. Again, it is highly recommended that you have legal representation at this stage.
  • Charging decision. After the investigation, the police or relevant regulatory body will consult with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether to charge you. They will consider whether there is enough evidence to secure a conviction, and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.
  • Court process. If you’re charged with the crime, you will have to go to court. Fraud by false representation can be tried in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. If your case goes to the Crown Court, you will have a jury trial.
  • If you are found guilty, the court will consider a range of factors when deciding your sentence. The maximum penalty for fraud by false representation is 10 years’ imprisonment. However, for a first offence and depending on the circumstances, it is certainly possible that a non-custodial sentence could be imposed. This could involve a fine, community service, or a suspended sentence.

Note that this is a general overview of the investigation and prosecution process, and the exact process can vary depending on the precise circumstances of the case. If you are facing such an accusation, it is crucial to seek advice from an experienced legal professional who can guide you based on your specific situation.

What is the sentence for fraud by false representation in the UK?

Fraud by false representation is a triable either way offence that carries a maximum of ten years’ imprisonment.

The judge will look at numerous factors related to the culpability (which can be understood as blameworthiness or guiltiness) of the offender and the level of harm caused by the offence. In considering these factors, he or she will make a fair conclusion as to which sentence should be handed down.

Examples of aggravating factors that could lead to a harsher sentence include: the offence being carried out as part of a broader organised crime scheme or gang activity; this being a repeat offence; other crimes being committed alongside the offence; and there being a severe impact on the victims.

Mitigating factors that reduce a sentence, on the other hand, include this offence being a first time offence; the offender showing remorse or an attempt to make good the harm caused; good character or exemplary conduct elsewhere; young age of the offender or otherwise lack of maturity; and the act originally being legitimate.

Note that a confiscation order may be made by the Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 if it is determined that the offender is still in possession of items obtained through the fraud.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing fraud by false representation?

As frustrating as this sounds, it can be very difficult to predict whether someone will go to prison for their first offence of fraud by false representation. The offence is, after all, a very serious one and only in exceptional circumstances will a judge consider suspending a sentence for someone that has been proven guilty of the offence.

That said, one thing that first time offenders do have on their side is the very fact that this is their first offence. The crime being a first offence is considered a mitigating factor in almost all cases, which means that whatever the judge was going to sentence you under the guidelines, the fact that it is a first time offence will help reduce that sentence, perhaps by years or months if other circumstances support such a conclusion.

The best way to understand whether a first offence of fraud by false representation will lead to a prison sentence is to ask an experienced criminal defence solicitor for advice on how similar cases are handled, and what the strength of your defence and other mitigating factors may be.

Where to get further help

If you or someone you care about is facing a charge or indeed a trial for fraud by false representation, it is understandable that you should have numerous concerns and questions about what happens next. In every case, getting expert legal advice early on can make all the difference. For first time offenders, we may even be able to get the case dropped before it reaches a trial. For a free, no obligation, and friendly consultation, get in touch with the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today.

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