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If you or a loved one are facing a first-time false accounting allegation, feeling worried about the road ahead plus a sense of urgency to start preparing your defence is understandable. False accounting is judiciously addressed by English courts, so promptly appointing an experienced defence solicitor is highly recommended. This article seeks to unpack what happens for a first time offence of false accounting. We outline the offence and its elements, provide some examples, explain sentencing risks for first-timers, and weigh imprisonment prospects. We also outline how to get in touch with our team for legal assistance, should your case seem like it will progress.
False accounting is an offence under the Theft Act 1968 in English law. It involves dishonestly destroying, defacing, concealing, or falsifying any account, record, or document required for accounting purposes.
Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 contains the offence of false accounting. For a conviction, the prosecution must generally establish:
False accounting carries a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, and prosecutions most often occur in the Crown Court given the financial complexity of the offence. Sentencing considers factors like value involved, sophistication, damage caused, and persistent course of conduct. Forensic accountants typically assist police investigations and may appear in court to provide expert testimony.
Examples of this offence include:
If you are suspected of false accounting in the UK, you are most likely to face investigation and potential prosecution under the Theft Act 1968. Because false accounting involves activities with serious consequences, like altering financial records to misrepresent a company’s position (which could then impact stock values), the police and other financial crime agencies are keen to ensure that investigations are thorough.
Here’s a general outline of what could happen:
It is vital that you engage a solicitor as early on in the process as you can if you are facing such accusations, as the exact process depends on your specific situation and the impacts on your personal and professional life may be significant.
False accounting involves dishonestly destroying, defacing, concealing, or falsifying any account, record, or document required for any accounting purpose. It carries a maximum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment under the Theft Act 1968.
Aggravating factors like large scale fraud, abuse of position, previous convictions, and attempting to conceal other crimes can increase sentences, because those factors indicate a greater degree of culpability and harm. Mitigating factors, such as a guilty plea, cooperation with authorities, no previous convictions, showing remorse, or having acted under duress may reduce them.
Additional penalties can include director disqualification, professional disciplinary action for accountants or auditors, company dissolution, and confiscation of criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. False accounting often accompanies crimes like tax evasion and money laundering, which may be charged in parallel and lead to further criminal sanctions and imprisonment.
Regulators like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) may also impose heavy fines for accounting misconduct in listed companies or financial services firms.
Here are some potential defences that can be raised in response to allegations of false accounting:
It cannot be stressed enough that false accounting is a serious offence with significant legal consequences, and not only for your business. If you are facing allegations of false accounting, seeking immediate legal advice from an experienced false accounting solicitor is crucial.
Predicting whether a first time false accounting offence could result in imprisonment is difficult, as courts consider numerous factors during sentencing. The scale and complexity of the deception is a key consideration – extensive, sophisticated falsehoods are viewed less sympathetically than minor breaches. The losses caused and damage to public trust in accounting standards will also be assessed, with severe impacts increasing chances of custody.
Mitigating factors like cooperating with investigations, admitting guilt early, and attempting to make amends, may assist first-time offenders in arguing against prison. On the other hand, aggravating factors like acting deliberately to enable other crimes or conceal misconduct point towards harsher punishment.
While simple record-keeping errors may warrant suspended sentences, judges are reluctant to have an offender avoid prison for substantial intentional falsification given the gravity and consequences of the deception. Those facing prosecution should obtain expert legal advice on realistic prospects of imprisonment based on precedents for comparable cases. An experienced fraud defence lawyer will be able to present mitigation arguments that may help you avoid prison.
If you or someone you care about is charged with false accounting, getting expert legal help immediately is very important. For first timers, charges could even be dropped pre-trial with the right advocate on your side. To understand your options, contact Stuart Miller Solicitors for a free consultation.
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