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If you or someone you know faces a first online fraud charge, feeling anxious and eager to start your defence is understandable. Online fraud is prevalent in the UK, with over 4 million incidents reported on average each year, according to UK Finance. As a result, it is an offence sternly addressed by UK courts and engaging an expert cybercrime defence solicitor is highly recommended. This article explains the offence of online fraud, provides examples, discusses sentencing of first-timers, and analyses imprisonment risks. We also outline how to get in touch with our team for robust legal assistance if you find yourself facing such an allegation.
Online fraud is not, in and of itself, a specific offence. Rather, it is a term used to describe the type of fraud being committed. Fraud Act 2006 offences relevant to online fraud include fraud by false representation and fraud by failing to disclose information when dealing with online transactions. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 criminalises unauthorised access to or modification of computer material.
To prove online fraud, the prosecution generally must show:
Online fraud carries penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and the seriousness of the offences and the technical complexity of actions that often lead to allegations of online fraud mean prosecutions most often occur in the Crown Court. Sentencing considers factors like the level of sophistication exhibited, the harm caused, and the amount defrauded.
Examples of this offence include:
If you are suspected of online fraud in the UK, you are likely to face investigation and potential prosecution under laws like the Fraud Act 2006 and Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Here’s a general outline of what could happen:
The exact charging and prosecution process you will face depends on your specific situation, so it is always best to seek the advice of a qualified and experienced online fraud solicitor if you are worried about next steps.
Online fraud is a growing problem prosecuted under the Fraud Act 2006 and Computer Misuse Act 1990. Common scams involve phishing emails, fake websites, online auction/shopping fraud, romance scams, and computer hacking – all of which harm the public confidence in Internet use as well as causing considerable levels of financial and emotional harm, which is why courts are so keen to impose hefty sentences for offenders. Under the Fraud Act 2006, the maximum sentence for online fraud is 10 years’ imprisonment.
Aggravating factors that can increase sentences include very large scale frauds, sophisticated hacking or malware, targeting vulnerable groups like the elderly, being part of an organised crime gang, and significant harm caused to victims. Mitigating factors may include showing remorse, making amends, naivety or immaturity of the offender, and pleading guilty early on.
Other penalties can include cybercrime prevention orders, confiscation of assets through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and directors being disqualified for company frauds.
Here are some potential defences that can be raised in response to allegations of online fraud:
Online fraud is a very serious offence with significant legal and societal implications. If you are facing allegations of online fraud, seeking immediate legal advice from an experienced online fraud lawyer is essential to understand the specific defences available to you and to navigate the legal process effectively.
It is hard to know whether a first time online fraud offence would automatically result in imprisonment, as courts consider numerous factors when sentencing and cases are so different. The sophistication and scale of the scam is a key consideration – large-scale deceptions are viewed less sympathetically than opportunistic individual acts. The losses caused to victims and public confidence in online security will also be weighed, with substantial harm increasing custody chances. Mitigating factors like youth, naivety, remorse and admitting guilt early on may assist first-time offenders in arguing against prison.
That said, aggravating factors like high levels of planning, involvement in wider organised crime, or trying to conceal the fraud point towards harsher sentences. While minor one-off scams may lead to suspended terms, judges are generally unwilling to avoid custody for deliberate large-scale deception given the seriousness.
Anyone facing prosecution should obtain expert legal advice on the realistic prospects of imprisonment based on precedents for comparable cases. An experienced fraud defence solicitor can present mitigation arguments that could mean you avoid prison time.
If you or a loved one is facing online fraud charges, specialist legal advice from the very start can make a major difference. We may even be able to get your case dropped before it reaches trial. Contact the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free initial consultation.
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