Sentencing for benefit fraud

What is the sentence for benefit fraud in 2020?

Being under investigation for benefit fraud is very frightening. This is why it’s recommended that you take the advice of a skilled fraud solicitor.

benefit fraud

A person found guilty of this crime is sometimes referred to as a ‘benefit cheat’ and can be handed a custodial sentence and be asked to return all fraudulently gained money to the government.

Benefit fraud is a serious offence, and the moment that those accused receives a letter from the local authority or the DWP, can be very frightening.

Understanding what you are eligible to claim for in the benefits system can be difficult. If the council discover that you’re claiming for something that you’re not entitled to, they could take you to court.

Being part of a benefit fraud investigation is terrifying. It’s a situation where it’s vital that you take legal advice immediately.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of benefit 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.

Have you been charged or arrested for benefit fraud?  

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection to benefit fraud, you will probably be feeling very stressed, confused, worried and concerned about what’s going to happen.

It’s imperative that you take the guidance of an experienced and competent benefit fraud solicitor.

What type of actions are considered Benefit Fraud?

Here are some examples of benefit fraud that may have led to the situation at hand.

Working and claiming – for example, people who are receiving housing benefit or even council tax reduction due to being entitled to Job Seekers Allowance or income support, but who are working.

Failure to disclose property ownership, capital or income – for instance, people who do not inform the authorities about savings, income, property or capital so that they receive more benefit than they are entitled to.

Non-disclosure of partner (living together with a partner) – when a person receives housing benefit or council tax reduction although they have a partner

Failure to declare non-dependents or sub-tenants – when a person does not inform the authorities about other adults who live at the property, and they retain their entitlement to benefit.

Landlord fraud – for example, a landlord who knows that the claimant has moved out of their property, but they continue to receive the payment from the authorities.

If you were under the impression that somebody else would inform the authorities of any changes, as can happen, this could still put you into trouble.

You may have been falsely accused of benefit fraud

We are often approached by clients who have been wrongly accused of benefit fraud. This can be caused by errors in the system or perhaps you have been reported by somebody.

If this is you, then we can help to get your name cleared so that you won’t need to go through the investigation process.

What is the average sentence for benefit fraud offences?

In addition to there being a maximum prison sentence of 7 years, you may have your benefits stopped or repay the overpayment.

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

Any benefit fraud situation is examined and thoroughly investigated by the police and other related regulatory agents.

Your circumstances will be examined to understand whether you are involved in a group activity or you were forced into the crim. 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 benefit 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 essential 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 benefit fraud offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a benefit 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 benefit 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 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.

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 benefit 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?

It’s the duty of the prosecutor to prove your intention to commit benefit fraud.

Stuart Miller Solicitors will work to understand your circumstances and find a way to defend you from the front foot. As part of our defence strategy, we will collect witness statements and other evidence that is used to support your account of events.

Our benefit fraud solicitors will advise on the potential impact on your family members and dependents.

Our Fraud Solicitors can help

When you are involved in a case of this nature, it’s critical that fraud solicitors examine the background of the case. This will aid the legal team in building a strong defence for the client to be used during the trial. It will mean looking through your business transactions, bank records and receipts.

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 benefit 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 benefit fraud legal help.

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