Benefit Fraud Solicitors
In these times of austerity there is more scrutiny than ever before by government departments in terms of their expenditure. As a result there are an increasing number of benefit fraud prosecutions and investigations into cases of fraudulent receipt of benefits.
This is partly because the DWP (Department for Work & Pensions) now have full time investigators and a legal department who are part of the Crown Prosecution Service and the investigators have more surveillance tools available to them than ever before. Also, government computers now speak to each other highlighting any discrepancies at a particular address, for example if there are people who are paying tax and receiving benefits within a particular household. The DWP particularly seem to be focussing upon Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and other means tested benefits whereas local authorities will focus on housing and council tax benefit.
At MJP solicitors we understand that people who are under investigation for benefit fraud are often experiencing their first exposure of the Criminal Justice Unit and that this can cause stress to the individual and their families. Our benefit fraud solicitors take pride in understanding the particular problems each case may represent and our solicitors are there to provide quality legal advice, and reassurance, through every stage of the fraud investigation.
Further Detailed Advice AvailableFurther advice on benefit fraud can be found on our dedicated benefits website.
Benefit Fraud Investigations
Any benefit claimant may be the subject of intrusive investigation and prosecution. Whether means tested or not, these benefits are scrutinised upon the wording of benefits claims forms and are often accused on the basis of not their own words but rather the descriptions of benefit advisors. There exists no clear reasoning for the grant of benefit which enables claimants to judge the accuracy of their claim.
Claimants find themselves having to justify what their claims forms said years before. MJP solicitors have successfully defended many of these types of cases and understand how traumatic it can be to face questioning under caution and prosecution when al the claimant wanted to receive was their entitlement, no more, no less.
A person may find themselves investigated by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) and / or the Local Authority if there is a belief that there is a fraudulent claim for one of the following benefits: -
- Income Support (IS)
- Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
- Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) - care and mobility components
- Incapacity Benefit (IB)
- Housing Benefit (HB)
- Council Tax Benefit (CTB)
Benefit Fraud Criminal Proceedings
Criminal legal proceedings may be brought for Benefit Fraud. Benefit Fraud Cases are prosecuted by the Department for Works and Pension (DWP) solicitors who are now the Welfare Rural and Health Prosecution Division of the Crown Prosecution Service. They are usually the lead prosecutor in cases but where people also receive Housing and Council Tax Benefit your local authority can prosecute you in their own right.
A person has the right to elect Jury trial in some Benefit Fraud cases, however we have recently seen a marked rise in people being charged with summary only offences, which means that they can only be prosecuted in the Magistrates' Court. Prosecuting solicitors may ask for the case to be tried in the Magistrates' Court in front of a single District Judge who decides upon the law and fact. A person can elect Crown Court trial where a Jury decides facts in relation to a Benefit Fraud case and the Judge decides on laws and sentencing.
Statistics show that a person is far more likely to be acquitted and found not guilty by a Jury than by a District Judge at trial.
Legal Aid is almost invariably available for benefit fraud cases. Prosecutions may be for conspiracy to commit Benefit Fraud where there are other involved.
Benefit Fraud Defence
The prosecution have to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that a person intended to receive a state benefit knowing that they were not entitled to it.
It is a defence to show that a person did not know that they were receiving benefit that they should not be receiving, that what was stated on their form was not a lie and that they believed they were entitled to receive what they were awarded by the DWP. The defence only have to prove their facts on the balance of probabilities 50/50.
Every case is different and just because you received the benefit which the DWP say you are now not entitled to, does not mean that a person has committed an offence.
A person can only be found guilty of Benefit Fraud on evidence that is admissible before a Court of law.
Benefit fraud solicitors, such as MJP solicitors, can help you defend yourself and prove that you were not acting dishonestly, you were not telling a lie and that you were relying on DWP to calculate benefit entitlement and avoid sentencing issues below by finding of not guilty to benefit fraud.
Benefit Fraud Sentencing
If it is decided there has been an overpayment of benefits the matter will be referred to the Department for Work & Pensions or Local Authority Solicitors who will make a decision whether to prosecute you. As a general rule of thumb the following rules apply:-
- For overpayment amounting to approximately £2,000.00 the Department for Work & Pensions or Local Authority may offer you a caution or an administrative penalty. A caution is similar to a Police Caution and an administrative penalty is exactly the same but there is a financial penalty added on top of 30%. For example, if the overpayment was £1,000.00 and you received an administrative penalty you would be expected to pay £1,300.00 back.
- For overpayments ranging between £2,000.00 to approximately £35,000.00 the case can be dealt with in the Magistrates Courts.
- For any overpayment over £35,000.00 then the matter is usually dealt with in the Crown Court.
Removing Benefit of Criminal Conduct
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002(link) provides that if there is a conviction for Benefit Fraud, the prosecution can apply to seek to remove the benefit received from the crime.
MJP solicitors have a specialist unit who deal with the defence of Proceeds of Crime cases in Benefit Fraud matters.
The principle is that prosecution can apply to the Court to recover the benefit of criminal conduct but the Court can only award a person to pay "the available amount" which means property held by a person at the date of conviction.
Not all benefit fraud solicitors are specialists in Proceeds of Crime cases or specialise in that area and knowing and using on a daily basis this complex area of law assists MJP solicitors in achieving results which clients find very satisfactory (according to survey).
MJP solicitors provide benefit fraud services in: -
Within the areas of Liverpool (including The Wirral), Southport, Manchester, St Helens, North Wales and Chester.
Get in Touch
Specialist advice investigation for any fraud investigation such as Benefit Fraud, DWP Fraud or DLA Fraud can be given by one of our Benefit Fraud Solicitors.
For free advice call now - 0333 011 0515 or use the contact us page.