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Fraud is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

What is the average sentence for Fraud in 2024?

Being involved in a fraud investigation can be a very stressful experience. The most worrying part is knowing that the case could go to court and conclude with an outcome of a prison sentence. Imprisonment of any length means separation from your family and loved ones.

police interview

The reality of this is that most people accused of fraud have no history of being on the wrong side of the law or of being in prison. For them, the concept of going to jail is terrifying.

When it comes to sentencing guidelines, there are five categories of fraud offences. These are:

  1. Confidence fraud
  2. Possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud
  3. Banking, insurance and credit fraud
  4. Benefit fraud
  5. Revenue fraud

To put your mind at ease, we have detailed what the outcome might be from being convicted of a fraud offence. However, it’s important to note that the guidance of an experienced solicitor may reduce a prison sentence or even avoid it entirely.

Let’s explore each of the five categories and what information is provided to judges by the Sentencing Guidelines Council to make their decisions.

Read more information about the offence of Fraud offences

What is the average sentence for confidence fraud offences?

Confidence frauds are typically crimes where the perpetrator obtains money or property from the victim by winning their confidence and deceiving them. Typically, they are crimes that are targeted at vulnerable victims and may affect one or many victims. Examples of this are:

  • Foreign lottery scams
  • Benefit fraud
  • Charity scams
  • Conspiracy to defraud
  • Advance fee frauds

These offences would usually be charged using the Fraud Act, which has a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

However, sentences of this length are not typical and are usually applied to the most serious of offences such as large-scale frauds.

For instance, if there are many victims, and the fraud involved is over £500,000, then a sentence of 7 years or less would typically be given. For those crimes where the value of the fraud committed is below £100,000 but over £20,000, then a sentence of four years is typical.

‘One-off’ Confidence Frauds

At the lower end of the scale is one-off frauds in which just the one deception has taken place. When sentencing, the judge will consider if the victim is vulnerable. If they are found to be, then the sentence may be a community-based sentence plus six months imprisonment. If the value of the fraud is more significant, then the time imprisoned could be up to 18 months.

What is the average sentence for possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud?

In this case, the word ‘articles’ can be defined as ‘things’ and can include anything from fake documents, computer software for the creation of credit card numbers, information on bank account details and lists of people who could be potential victims of confidence fraud. It can also include any equipment designed for the creation of credit cards or the manipulation of such.

Charged under the Fraud Act, an offence of this nature would range from a maximum of 10-year imprisonment for making or supplying articles and 5 years for possessing articles. Receiving maximum sentences is rare.

For the less sophisticated operation, sentences of anywhere between 6 months and 2 years is typically given. For a planned fraud that is skilfully put together, penalties may be between 2- and 7-years imprisonment.

When it comes to possessing articles for use in a fraud offence, sentences can range from community-based penalties to 12 to 18 months for the more complex frauds.

What is the average sentence for banking, insurance and credit fraud?

This offence includes situations where the offender has attempted to obtain a mortgage by using false details, making false insurance claims and payment card fraud.

Typically charged under the Fraud Act, maximum sentences of 10 years imprisonment are rarely handed out. Only in the most severe cases would such sentences be given.

In the case of a very calculated and professionally executed fraud, which has taken place over a lengthy period, a sentence of between 4 and 7 years may be issued. The amount of money involved in a crime of this nature is likely to be over £500,000. When the amount involved is under £100,000, the sentence would typically be a lot shorter.

At the other end of the scale, cases that involve a somewhat simple approach and perhaps just one transaction would result in a shorter custodial sentence. If the value of the money involved is significantly small, then the outcome may even be just a community-based punishment.

What is the average sentence for benefit fraud?

Under this category, cases can range from significant, high value and sophisticated with rings of people involved to relatively small-scale crimes of individuals making false benefit claims purely for themselves. Judges can give very different sentences for these.

With a theoretical sentence of 10 and 7 years being maximum, the outcome will depend on the law under which the defendant is charged. However, sentences of these lengths are unusual in benefit fraud case outcomes.

Professional and sophisticated operations which involve a syndicate of benefit cheaters will usually culminate in a sentence of anywhere between 2 and 7 years for the convicted. Those that have been found guilty of benefit fraud on an individual basis and secured figures that are less than £20,000 are likely to be handed non-custodial sentences. However, those cases that have been running for a long time are quite likely to receive a custodial sentence.

What is the average sentence for revenue fraud?

This category of sentencing includes carousel frauds, MTIC (Missing Trader), alcohol duty frauds and evasion of VAT.

When these offences are well organised and result in millions of pounds of loss to the taxpayer, they are considered to be serious by judges. The highest sentences are given to those involved in a missing trader, alcohol duty and carousel frauds.

For offences of under £100,000 that was not fraudulent at the outset, a typical sentence is a community-based penalty.

However, those who have conducted multiple frauds, and/or involved in fraud that was intended from the outset, even figures as low as up to £20,000 can get a sentence of 3 months.

When the fraud is sophisticated, professional planned and the value is anywhere from £20,000 to hundreds of thousands, sentences of between 3 and 5 years are given.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the fraud offence for sentencing purposes?

The court will consider what harm has been caused by the offence when deciding which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • How well planned or opportunistic is the crime?
  • Was there a ‘professional’ operation for the fraud
  • Over what length of time was the fraud carried out?
  • What was the motivation behind the crime?
  • How much money or property was involved?
  • Whether a position of trust was bestowed to the offender (such as being an employee)
  • How many people were involved in either planning or carrying out the offence?
  • The impact the fraud has on victor or victims
  • The risk of physical harm to others (such as setting a home on fire to claim insurance)
  • What damage or loss was planned for as opposed to the outcome?
  • Was the defendant entitled to any of what was gained?
  • Any attempt to disclose or conceal evidence
  • The level of vulnerability of the victim and whether they were specifically targeted
  • Whether there has been fraudulent use of identity

The fraud sentencing guidelines specify that fraud can cause considerable harm to victims, society and the economy that goes beyond the immediate impact of the offence. For example, there might be a loss in market confidence in and the closure of businesses.

In some cases, fraud can be used to siphon funds to organised crime and terrorist groups. Vulnerable people might be influenced to take drugs or traffic people.

Fraud is also often used to fund serious organised crime that may target vulnerable people, such as in the case of drug supply and people trafficking.

The following is a section taken from the sentencing guidelines used by judges to decide on penalties for fraud offences.

Culpability demonstrated by one or more of the following

A – High culpability

  • A leading role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Involvement of others through pressure, influence
  • Abuse of position of power or trust or responsibility
  • Sophisticated nature of offence/significant planning
  • Fraudulent activity conducted over sustained period of time
  • Large number of victims
  • Deliberately targeting victim on basis of vulnerability

B – Medium culpability

  • A significant role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Other cases that fall between categories A or C because:
    • Factors are present in A and C which balance each other out and/or
    • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in A and C

C – Lesser culpability

  • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Not motivated by personal gain
  • Peripheral role in organised fraud
  • Opportunistic ‘one-off’ offence; very little or no planning
  • Limited awareness or understanding of the extent of fraudulent activity

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.


What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce a fraud sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In fraud cases, they can include:

  • Whether the defendant is disabled or mentally ill
  • How old they are, i.e. if they are particularly young their age may affect their level of responsibility
  • What role the convicted played in the offence – i.e. if it was particularly minor
  • Whether the crime was fraudulent from the beginning or not
  • Whether the defendant can demonstrate that they received incorrect advice from a third party that contributed to there being a fraud
  • There is evidence that the person stopped offending before being caught
  • Whether the offender has admitted the crime and cooperated with the authorities
  • Whether the money has been returned voluntarily
  • In the situation of there being extreme financial pressure on the defendant that was not deserved before the offence took place

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for fraud offences with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of a fraud offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a fraud offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity. For instance, if a company director has abused their position which resulted in a fraud crime, they can be banned from trading a particular business for up to 5 years or be required to make full financial reports for all their financial transactions for up to 15 years.

Ancillary orders include the following:

Compensation Order

The court may enforce that a compensation order is applied in favour of a victim if they have suffered a personal injury or a financial loss. Compensation may include a community order, a fine or a prison sentence and be a stand-alone sentence or combined with another punishment.

Confiscation Order

When the defendant is viewed by the court as having benefited financially from the offence, the court may decide to enforce a confiscation order to reclaim any finances gained from the crime.

Deprivation order

A deprivation order includes depriving the defendant access to computers that can be used for IT-based frauds or to manipulate payment cards such as credit cards.

Restitution order

A restitution order is when the court orders that stolen goods are restored or returned to the victim. It may also involve money or assets of the value stolen being transferred to the victim.

Disqualification from acting as a company director

When a company director is convicted of an offence related to the operation of a business, the court can decide to ban the person from acting as a company director for between 5 years and 15 years.

Financial reporting order

If the court believes that the defendant is likely to be involved in future offences, they may decide to enforce the defendant to report their financial affairs on a regular basis. A financial reporting order can last for up to 15 years.

Serious crime prevention order

This is the most stringent order to be given by a court and can influence several different aspects of the life of the convicted person. It may include

  • Whether they can work with certain individuals
  • Applying particular business methods
  • Working in particular businesses
  • Using types of items
  • Access to premises
  • Travel – both international and national

The convicted person may also be enforced to disclose personal and business information on demand for a period.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of fraud offences, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Fraud and the Sentencing Guidelines Council

In response to the 2009 Fraud Act, the Sentencing Guidelines Council have laid out clear sentence guidelines for adult fraud offenders sentenced by courts. Dividing fraud offences into five categories helps judges to decide on sentencing. As with all sentencing guidelines, there is levelling as to the seriousness involved.

  1. Confidence fraud
  2. Possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud
  3. Banking, insurance and credit fraud
  4. Benefit fraud
  5. Revenue fraud
Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

Being accused of fraud can have disastrous consequences for you, your family and your business. It’s crucial that you hire Fraud Solicitors who fully understand the implications and will do everything possible to chase the best possible solutions and best achievable results for you.

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

We handle fraud cases regularly and have deep expertise in this field. We can help you by recommending the best course of action to take to mitigate the outcome. No matter what size your case is, get in touch.

Most clients who seek the advice of our expert fraud solicitors fail to understand that it is the prosecution who ‘must prove the case’ to convict you. It is for the prosecution to prove, so that the Jury is no less than sure, beyond any reasonable doubt in their mind, that you were in an Agreement with the others (Conspiracy) and that you were intentionally dishonest in making or trying to make money or causing someone loss.

If you or somebody you know is currently under investigation for fraud, you may not only have the police pursuing you, but you could also have other regulators and prosecutors after you. It might be that you or your business is under investigation and you need the support and specialist legal advice of fraud solicitors.

In addition to a competent solicitor spending time with the defendant, collecting character references and medical information can be what transforms the outcome of a fraud trial for the better. The sentence is likely to be reduced and, in some cases, the case dismissed before it reaches the court.

What will happen when I instruct a fraud lawyer?

We offer a dedicated solicitor, barrister and caseworker to each fraud case, which will ensure an outstanding level of customer service throughout. You can be sure that someone will always be available to assist you, and there is more than one legal mind being applied to the issues in your case.

Also, we use only the best mobile phone experts and only the most competent financial experts to study, analyse and evaluate the evidence to provide useful defence evidence or discredit the prosecution’s evidence.

The taking of action very early on for any legal case is what increases the chances of success. Some prosecutions are intimidating, complicated and need skilful advice at every crossroads.

We offer a free consultation to discuss your case with us. We can also act for you at the police station for free and can help assess your financial eligibility for legal aid.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

Please contact our fraud solicitors to arrange your meeting, whether face to face, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can also send us a WhatsApp message using the link in the bottom banner if you are viewing this page on a mobile phone device.

Get in touch now for fraud offences legal help.


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