BENEFIT FRAUD OFFENCES

There are a number of offences that the Crown Prosecution Service could charge a person with in respect of benefit fraud. Here we will provide you with the details of the full offences that can be charged in law and the provide an explanation as to what this actually means.

Historically the majority of people were charged under Section 111A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 which states as follows:

111A.—(1) If a person dishonestly–

(a) makes a false statement or representation; [or]

(b) produces or furnishes, or causes or allows to be produced or furnished, any document or information which is false in a material particular;

with the view to obtaining any benefit or other payment or advantage under the [relevant] social security legislation (whether for himself or for some other person), he shall be guilty of an offence.

(1A)A person shall be guilty of an offence if–

  1. there has been a change of circumstances affecting any entitlement of his to any benefit or other payment or advantage under any provision of the relevant social security legislation;

b) the change is not a change that is excluded by regulations from the changes that are required to be notified;

(c) he knows that the change affects an entitlement of his to such a benefit or other payment or advantage; and

(d) he dishonestly fails to give a prompt notification of that change in the prescribed manner to the prescribed person.

(1B) A person shall be guilty of an offence if–

(a) there has been a change of circumstances affecting any entitlement of another person to any benefit or other payment or advantage under any provision of the relevant social security legislation;

(b) the change is not a change that is excluded by regulations from the changes that are required to be notified;

(c) he knows that the change affects an entitlement of that other person to such a benefit or other payment or advantage; and

(d) he dishonestly causes or allows that other person to fail to give a prompt notification of that change in the prescribed manner to the prescribed person.

(1C) This subsection applies where–

(a) there has been a change of circumstances affecting any entitlement of a person (‘the claimant’) to any benefit or other payment or advantage under any provision of the relevant social security legislation;

(b) the benefit, payment or advantage is one in respect of which there is another person (‘the recipient’) who for the time being has a right to receive payments to which the claimant has, or (but for the arrangements under which they are payable to the recipient) would have, an entitlement; and

(c) the change is not a change that is excluded by regulations from the changes that are required to be notified.

(1D) In a case where subsection (1C) above applies, the recipient is guilty of an offence if–

(a) he knows that the change affects an entitlement of the claimant to a benefit or other payment or advantage under a provision of the relevant social security legislation;

(b) the entitlement is one in respect of which he has a right to receive payments to which the claimant has, or (but for the arrangements under which they are payable to the recipient) would have, an entitlement; and

(c) he dishonestly fails to give a prompt notification of that change in the prescribed manner to the prescribed person.

(1E) In a case where that subsection applies, a person other than the recipient is guilty of an offence if–

(a) he knows that the change affects an entitlement of the claimant to a benefit or other payment or advantage under a provision of the relevant social security legislation;

(b) the entitlement is one in respect of which the recipient has a right to receive payments to which the claimant has, or (but for the arrangements under which they are payable to the recipient) would have, an entitlement; and

(c) he dishonestly causes or allows the recipient to fail to give a prompt notification of that change in the prescribed manner to the prescribed person.

(1F) In any case where subsection (1C) above applies but the right of the recipient is confined to a right, by reason of his being a person to whom the claimant is required to make payments in respect of a dwelling, to receive payments of housing benefit–

(a) a person shall not be guilty of an offence under subsection (1D) or (1E) above unless the change is one relating to one or both of the following–

(i) the claimant’s occupation of that dwelling;

(ii) the claimant’s liability to make payments in respect of that dwelling;

but

(b) subsections (1D)(a) and (1E)(a) above shall each have effect as if after “knows” there were inserted “or could reasonably be expected to know”.

(1G) For the purposes of subsections (1A) to (1E) above a notification of a change is prompt if, and only if, it is given as soon as reasonably practicable after the change occurs.]

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable–

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both; or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to a fine, or to both.

Explanation:

Under this section a person can be charged with making a false representation in a benefit claim form. This means essentially providing false or untrue information in a benefit claim form.

A person can also be charged with dishonestly  failing to promptly notify a change of circumstances. This covers when a person’s circumstances change. For example, a person called get a job, move in with a partner or inherit some money or property. This is information that would affect benefit and if the authorities were not informed this could give rise to a criminal charge.

OFFENCES UNDER THE FRAUD ACT 2006

1Fraud

(1)A person is guilty of fraud if he is in breach of any of the sections listed in subsection (2) (which provide for different ways of committing the offence).

(2)The sections are—

(a)section 2 (fraud by false representation),

(b)section 3 (fraud by failing to disclose information), and

(c)section 4 (fraud by abuse of position).

(3)A person who is guilty of fraud is liable—

(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (or to both);

(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine (or to both).

(4)Subsection (3)(a) applies in relation to Northern Ireland as if the reference to 12 months were a reference to 6 months.

2Fraud by false representation

(1)A person is in breach of this section if he—

(a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and

(b)intends, by making the representation—

(i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

(ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

(2)A representation is false if—

(a)it is untrue or misleading, and

(b)the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.

(3)“Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation as to the state of mind of—

(a)the person making the representation, or

(b)any other person.

(4)A representation may be express or implied.

(5)For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention).

3Fraud by failing to disclose information

A person is in breach of this section if he—

(a)dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is under a legal duty to disclose, and

(b)intends, by failing to disclose the information—

(i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

(ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

Explanation:

Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 establishes the general offence of fraud. There are three ways of committing fraud established by sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Fraud Act 2006. However, only sections 2 and 3 are relevant for the purposes of benefit fraud prosecutions.

Under section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 a person can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if they dishonestly put misleading or untrue information in a benefit claim form, intending to make a gain for themselves. Importantly, in terms of benefit fraud the benefit does not have to be put into payment for this offence to be charged.  It is enough for the claim form to be simply completed which could allow the prosecution to prove their case.

Under section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 it is an offence to fail to disclose information which a person is under a legal duty to disclose. When a person makes a benefit claim they basically enter a contract with the government. That contract is that they will be paid benefits whilst they are entitled but they must inform the authorities of any change of circumstances which may affect that benefit entitlement. A change of circumstances could be finding a job, moving in with a partner, receiving an inheritance or,in the case of disabled claimants, an improvement in their condition or mobility. By not telling the authorities of these changes an offence may have been committed resulting in, potentially, a 10 year prison sentence.

However, it is a long process before somebody would be charged with any type of criminal offence. In our experience, it takes approximately 12 months from the interview under caution until a case is listed before the court for its first appearance.

If you receive a requisition or summons charging you with any of the offences outlined above, then contact our specialist solicitors. If you have received a summons or requisition requiring you to attend court you should get legal advice as soon as possible. At Benefit-fraud-solicitor.uk we can offer free representation for court cases if you are entitled to legal aid.. We represent people in England and Wales including Liverpool, Merseyside, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Contact us today and speak to our specialist benefit and tax credit fraud lawyers on 07946 548387 or email us through our contact us section.

SENTENCING GUIDELINES

Sentencing guidelines council guidelines for fraud bribery and money laundering

LOSS OF BENEFIT AND SANCTIONS

Since 1 April 2002, the loss of benefit provisions contained in Social Security Fraud Act 2001 have made it possible to restrict payment of benefit for 13 weeks following a conviction for a second benefit fraud offence where the offence was committed:

within 3 years of a previous conviction where the second offence was committed before 1 April 2008, or

within 5 years of a previous conviction where the second offence was committed on or after 1 April 2008

From 1 April 2010, further loss of benefit provisions amending section 11(1) Social Security Fraud Act 2001 made it possible to impose a restriction of benefit payment for 4 weeks following a conviction, a caution or an administrative penalty for a first benefit fraud offence.

In April 2013 the Loss of Benefit Provisions under sections 117 to 119 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 came into force bringing further amendments to Social Security Fraud Act 2001.

Those who accept administrative penalties, cautions or who are convicted of benefit offences may be subject to the loss of benefit rules. Where the rules apply, the claimant may have their benefit payment reduced wholly or in part for a number of weeks.

Different provisions apply to persons accepting administrative penalties or cautions but for those convicted of offences committed wholly after 1 April 2013 The reduction periods will be:

for a first conviction – 13 weeks (previously 4 weeks)

for a second offence committed within 5 years – 26 weeks (previously 13 weeks)

for a third offence committed within 5 years – 3 years (previously 13 weeks)

for a single conviction for a serious or organised benefit or identity fraud (whether for a first or subsequent conviction) – 3 years(new)