Sentencing for carbon credit fraud

What is the sentence for carbon credit fraud?

In 2018, there was a high-profile carbon credit fraud case in the courts. The outcome was convictions for those who had tricked people out of their life savings. The four fraudsters received 13 years, according to City of London Police, to ‘hopefully go some way to deterring others from committing such offences.’

carbon credit fraud

A lack of central regulation made it easy for carbon credit fraud to exist. When carbon credit is paid, a certificate is issued as evidence that an amount has been paid to remove carbon dioxide from the environment.

Carbon credit certificates are tradeable and are bought and sold by companies as encouragement for them to reduce their greenhouse emissions. Any certificates that are spare can then be sold for profit.

Carbon Credit Fraud was prevalent a few years ago, and a continued onslaught of prosecutions has limited those involved to even take the chance with claiming a carbon credit from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The UK Emissions Trading Scheme was first set up as a pilot of the now fully operational EU Emissions Trading Scheme that it now runs alongside. By taking part in the scheme, companies could get a discount on the Climate Change Levy tax if they took part in trading

Carbon credit fraud investigations can be lengthy, stressful and upsetting. You may feel very concerned about what might happen to you. You may worry about the outcome and whether you’ll receive a large fine or a hefty prison sentence.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of carbon credit fraud, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Is Carbon Credit Trading illegal?

The trading of Carbon Credits is not necessarily illegal per se. Carbon Credits are lawfully traded by multi-national corporations. However, Carbon Credits can only be traded successfully (i.e. at a competitive rate) in large amounts, therefore single investors who purchased a small amount of credits from call centres found them almost worthless when trying to compete on the market where large companies were trading Carbon Credits by the millions.

The Fraud and deception element can be erected by scrupulous police investigators who often interview those investors experiencing significant losses. In our experience, investors afraid of losing their capital owing to market conditions will happily over-play the allegation in return for promises from the police that their funds ‘could’ be returned to them.

Police will usually not only bring in the owners, organisers and managers of the business but also those floor workers responsible for selling the credits and cold-calling potential investors. The employees of the company are unlikely to be aware of whether they are selling Carbon Credits as a genuine investment product or whether the enterprise was dishonest.

What type of actions are considered Carbon Credit Fraud?

Here are some examples of how carbon credit fraud is committed, that may have led to the situation at hand.

EU Tax Fraud  – for instance, transferring credits between businesses.

Fraud of documentation – for example, getting documents certified that are not legal paperwork.

Stolen and bogus credits  – an example of this might be getting credits that were not provided through the official route. Credits are not regulated nor standardised. You may even have believed that the credits you were given were real.

There are many other examples. If you would like to know more about whether a crime that you’ve been linked to is classified as a carbon credit fraud crime, you can always make contact with us for further information.

What is the average sentence for carbon credit fraud offences?

A carbon credit fraud case that reaches court and secures a conviction is likely to get a prison sentence of at least four to five years. The sentence may even be ten years or more, depending on how serious the crime is.  In most cases, the time will be shortened with some of the sentence being spent back in the community but on license. During this time, the convicted would not be able to offend again, or they would return to court to be resentenced and may spend further time behind bars.

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

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse, the seriousness of the crime and the amount of harm caused.

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

  • Your previous conviction
  • The number of victims involved
  • The amount of money involved
  • Whether there was a forgery or identity fraud used to secure more funds

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

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

  • Whether the defendant is disabled or mentally ill
  • The age of the defendant, i.e. if they are particularly young, their age may affect their level of responsibility
  • If there are previous, relevant or recent convictions
  • Suspect shows a considerable degree of genuine remorse
  • If you are considered to have previous good character with exemplary conduct
  • If there is a learning disability or mental disorder linked to this offence
  • There have been demonstrative steps made to address this behaviour

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for carbon credit 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 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 carbon credit fraud offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a carbon credit 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 carbon credit fraud include:

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

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 done in obtaining enough 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 investment fraud and defrauding the HMRC tax office, 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

Have you been arrested or charged with carbon credit fraud?

If you’ve been contacted by the police and arrested, charged or even just invited to the police station for a chat, it’s vital that you seek legal guidance immediately. Communicating in any way with the police without legal support can put you at significant risk of being given a term in prison.

The primary goal of the police is to secure convictions. They do this by trying a range of different approaches and techniques in a bid to get you to incriminate yourself. They will not disclose all the evidence that they have against you and are going to use as part of their prosecution.

Some evidence is likely to be withheld from your knowledge or vision, but by having an experienced investment fraud legal expert by your side, you can give yourself some protection against the police and their tactics.

Another benefit of engaging competent and experienced carbon credit fraud lawyers is that they can provide you with guidance on what to say and what not to say. The police will ask you many questions, and this can be gruelling and exhausting. With a legal professional by your side, you can answer confidently, knowing that you’re not getting yourself into deeper and hotter water.

Your solicitor can immediately begin to create a robust defence strategy to secure you the best possible outcome should your case reach court. Alternatively, your solicitor may even be able to get your case dismissed before it reaches the court stage.

If there are other people involved who have been accused and are involved in your case, it’s critical that you know what’s being said by whom. Accessing this information isn’t always possible, but there is a good chance that your lawyer will be able to make contact with the other legal help involved in this case to minimise damage.

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Our fraud solicitors will scrutinise the prosecution investigation or prosecution. We will prepare against any of your former colleagues providing prosecution evidence against you or giving evidence which is detrimental to your case. We will collect all favourable defence material to support and strengthen your case and we will instruct forensic and financial experts required to spread credibility over you defence case.

If you are served with Restraint Orders, your property is seized or your cash detained; you will require specialist advice from commercially savvy Lawyers. We will defend you from the start of the case to the end, including Confiscation Proceedings if you are convicted.

Want a free consultation with our Carbon Credit Fraud Solicitors?

If you’re facing a carbon credit fraud case, please Contact Us and ask to speak to our Fraud Lawyers. We can arrange to speak to you 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.

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 carbon credit fraud lawyers and fraud offences 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 carbon credit fraud legal help.

Emergency?

Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.