THE INVESTIGATION PROCESS

When somebody claims benefits the government need to know their circumstances in order to determine correct benefit entitlement. This is continually reviewed during the period of the claim and a benefit claimant may be contacted by a Compliance Officer.

Compliance Officers can be viewed as potentially being the first wave of the investigation process. They will ask benefit claimants to explain discrepancies in information held by the DWP and HMRC and if not satisfied with the responses they can sanction a claimant’s benefits and / or refer the matter to the Single Fraud Investigation Service.

Once a matter has been referred to the Single Fraud Investigation Service they will check government computer systems and contact credit reference agencies such as Equifax and Experian for information. Enquiries may be made under section 109B of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 with employers, banks, schools, insurers and utilities suppliers for further information. The Single Fraud Investigation Service can pretty much ask anyone for information and if the do not respond they can obtain a Court Order to get the information or prosecute the holder of that information for a criminal offence. It should be particularly noted that the Single Fraud Investigation Service can even ask for your medical records, particularly if you claim benefits related to illness or disability. They can also conduct surveillance of your home.

At some stage the Single Fraud Investigation Service will feel they have enough evidence to ask a claimant to attend an interview under caution at their offices. If you receive a letter inviting you for an interview under caution we would strongly advise you to attend with a legal representative who can give you independent legal advice.if you do not attend the interview you could be arrested.

When interviewed the caution is as follows:

“You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you say can be given in evidence.”

The way the interview under caution is conducted is governed by the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) and the related Codes of Practice. During the interview you will be asked questions about your initial claim form and any change of circumstance there may have been. Evidence will be put to you which the DWP, HMRC or the local authority say supports their case. Evidence from the sources identified above will be put to you and you will be asked for your explanation of that evidence.

At an interview under caution your legal representative will receive disclosure and can then tell you the details of the allegation you face. If Benefit-fraud-solicitor.uk represent you, you will receive high quality legal advice relating to both the criminal law and welfare benefit law. A decision will then be made on the best way to proceed.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

Once the interview has concluded there may be further investigations undertaken. At some stage the evidence gathered will be sent to a Decision Maker who will decide if you are entitled to benefit or are entitled at a reduced rate or not entitled at all. If this person decides you are not entitled the case is referred to another Decision Maker who will decide how much you have been overpaid and how this will be recovered. Letters detailing the reasons for these decisions will be sent to you. If the content of these letters is wrong it is possible that any overpayment may not be able to be recovered.

You have the right to appeal any entitlement and / or overpayment decision but this must be done within 28 days of receiving the letter. Late appeals may be allowed if there is good reason.

After this the matter will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide whether you should be prosecuted. Generally, the following applies:

  1. If the overpayment arose prior to 2015 a financial penalty called an administrative penalty of 30% can be imposed for overpayments up to £2000. If the overpayment covers a period during and after 2015 then an administrative penalty of 50% can be imposed for overpayments up to £5000.
  2. If an overpayment is less than £20,000 the case will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
  3. If an overpayment is over £20,000 then the case could be heard in the Crown Court.

 

BENEFIT FRAUD AND TAX CREDIT FRAUD INTERVIEWS UNDER CAUTION

If you have received a letter from the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) inviting you for an interview under caution you should get legal advice as soon as possible. At Benefit-fraud-solicitor.uk we can offer free representation for interviews under caution at DWP and Job Centre Plus offices, police stations and any other local centre / office. 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.