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Sentencing for charity fraud

What is the sentence for charity fraud in 2024?

Charity fraud is a crime that is increasing every year. More than £2.5bn was reported by charities to have been stolen through internal fraud during the 2018/2019 period, which is an increase to the statistics of the 2017/2018 period. Despite there being some fairly simple steps that can be put in place to prevent charity fraud from occurring, it continues to increase.

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As with any organisation, charities are vulnerable to fraud – whether it’s abuse by internal roles or external roles. For example, volunteers, trustees and employees can all take advantage, or it might be collections made fraudulently from the public.

If you’re under investigation for charity fraud, it’s critical for you to take legal advice from an experienced fraud solicitor. Charity fraud is taken seriously by the courts due to the indirect impact it has on the funds of the government who then need to address matters that would typically be addressed by the charity. The offence of charity fraud can result in a custodial sentence.

Have you been charged or arrested for charity fraud?

If you’ve discovered that your name is linked to a case of charity fraud, you’re likely to feel worried and disturbed. Hiring a legal professional is not something that should be dismissed at this time. A situation of this nature needs legal counsel to attain a positive outcome.

You’ll typically feel concerned about being imprisoned and taking legal guidance is what will make the difference between your freedom or loss of liberty.

Depending on what your situation is, a good charity fraud lawyer may even be able to get your case dismissed before it goes onto the trial stage. You may also be relieved of being asked to attend an investigation by the Charity Commission.

In some cases, there is just a misunderstanding but this can also lead to imprisonment. This is why it’s vital that you take the counsel of a fraud lawyer.

Are you a trustee who is being accused of charity fraud?

When it comes to finances, charities are very vulnerable to losing financial control in addition to experiencing issues with accountability or trust. There are a few simple actions that can provide any charity with greater fraud resilience, but many times they are not executed.

One of these actions might be putting a transaction reconciliation process into place to spot any anomalies. A member of the management team would perform an act of this nature.

As a charity trustee, handling such a vast mountain of responsibilities can create exposure when it comes to prosecution. It’s also a criminal offence for any trustee to receive financial benefits without authority.

What types of actions are classed as Charity Fraud?

There are several ways that charity fraud can be suffered. For instance, these are examples from real cases:

  • Misappropriation of funds – it’s important to run tests on expenditure processes such as for salaries, utilities, credit cards, grant-giving etc.
  • Abuse of position – for example, it’s also important to check processes for receiving money such as when cheques, donations or grants arrive. What is the process?
  • Weaknesses in financial procedures and due diligence – having weak internal financial controls can leave charities open to fraud from the inside.

If you’re a trustee of a charity and you do not report charity fraud to the police and obtain a crime number, you could be at risk of committing a criminal offence. As a trustee, you are obliged to do all you can to safeguard the assets and property of a charity. It’s essential that all charities install and follow strong policies and procedures.

What is the impact of Charity Fraud?

Due to some charities being very successful in terms of their donation collections, charity fraud can involve significant amounts of money. If the money is not stolen, it would be able to put to very good use and provide a buffer against use of government resources.

Charity Law demands compliance with the Charities Act 2011. Those that don’t will be at the centre of a Charity Commission investigation who are increasing the number of prosecutions taking place each year.  In brief, the accused will be investigated by the police and be at the centre of a Charity Commission Investigation.

What are the mitigating factors considered in sentencing?

When sentencing for charity fraud, your case is looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or whether you have been forced into taking part in the fraud. If you’ve given misleading information on purpose or used a false identity, this will impact your sentence.

Does a conviction for Charity Fraud go on your criminal record?

If your charity fraud case progresses to court and you are convicted of defrauding a charity, you will be given a permanent criminal record.

What is the average sentence for charity fraud offences?

Depending on the circumstances and what your involvement is, the penalty for charity fraud may be a prison sentence of anywhere between 3 months and 10 years. You may also be ordered to return all stolen monies, even if you are imprisoned.

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

When sentencing for charity fraud, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

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

In recent years, several 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 the 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 per cent 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 charity fraud offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a charity fraud offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of charity fraud include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

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 that was undertaken 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.

Can sentences 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 charity fraud, 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.

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

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

The prosecutors must prove that you had the intention of charity fraud.

To defend you, we explore all circumstances of your case to protect on the front foot. Our fraud lawyers will create a defence strategy to fight your case and collect evidence, witness statements and other material which will support your account of the events.

If you have had a Restraint Order or a Freezing Order applied to your bank account, we will go all out to have these removed or reduced.

Rest assured we have access to the best Barristers and QCs, forensic accountants, scientific analysts and a vast range of charity-related experts who can be called upon to work with us.

Our Fraud Solicitors can help

Getting to know the client well can make all the difference in being able to represent the client fairly and well. Being able to sell the client to the jury can influence the emotions of the jury. If they like the client, they are far more likely to be lenient with their judgement of the client. They may view the client as being naïve rather than dishonest, and then find them not guilty.

Arrest & Interview

At the outset of an investigation of this nature, it is commonplace for the police to seize all of your electronic devices for analysis. We understand you will feel a sense of embarrassment with such levels of intrusion into your privacy. They may be seized for weeks, months and sometimes even longer.

In this day and age where people rely heavily upon technology, we understand you may feel at a loss without them. Not only can our team prepare you for what can be a lengthy and gruelling process, once the investigation is underway, but we can also put pressure on the police to conclude their investigation as quickly as possible. Our fraud solicitors provide representation throughout police interviews and at all stages of the Court process.

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.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our charity fraud lawyers and fraud solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for charity fraud legal help.


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