Benefit Fraud – Explained by Specialist Benefit Fraud Solicitors’
Our specialist benefit fraud solicitors see people end up being accused of benefit fraud for all sorts of reasons. For some, the pressures of family life can push them into situations that they find it hard to escape from, whereas for others it’s simply a case of a beneficial mistake that goes uncorrected. For others still, the DWP or local authority have simply made a cynical mistake, and they are guilty of no crime.
At Mary Monson Solicitors we understand this and appreciate how stressful it can be for those being accused. The work we do is more than just a job for us and we work tirelessly to always get appropriate resolution for our client.
Someone may be committing benefit fraud if they fail to tell the DWP correct information about themselves. An experienced benefit fraud solicitor should be able to advise that this includes accurate details of savings, family income, other adults living with them and ownership of any other land. A fraud could also be committed if someone tells the DWP that they are renting a property they actually own, if they pretend to be paying more rent than they are really, if they fail to inform about tenants moving out, or if they ask an employer to say that they are earning less money than they actually are.
Strategy and sentencing
The first job of a criminal lawyer is to help the client avoid conviction if they are not guilty. This means that the factual basis must be looked at very carefully. Prosecutors often take a cynical view of disability and of unusual arrangements between partners who do not live together. The defence should not be afraid of fighting these issues out in court at trial.
If the client is unquestionably guilty, in cases involving benefit overpayment of over £20,000, a custodial sentence of around 9-12 months could be imposed, although sentences are often suspended. Large-scale benefit fraud can result in sentences of over 30 months. A jail sentence can contain a deterrent element and make ‘examples’ of people.
People should not be held accountable to things they have not done. We often can mitigate sentences for our clients by off-setting the amount of benefits they have legitimately received against the amount of overpayment claimed. We employ benefits experts to work out the correct levels of claims and investigate our client’s circumstance. This will normally reduce the amount of overpayment by 80%.
Mitigation can reduce any sentence and a guilty plea will always do this. In cases of benefit fraud, extra factors that are taken into account are the amount of time over which the fraud occurred and the total amount. Character evidence and voluntary repayments can also be taken into account.
At Mary Monson Solicitors we can further reduce a sentence by making representations as to the circumstances of the offence and how the fraud began, what the money was spent on and any particular special matters relevant such as family breakdown, illness or disability. If a client has unknowingly committed a benefit fraud in order to feed their young family, then we can ensure this is taken into account in sentencing and given full consideration by the court.