Benefit Fraud: A Guide to Penalties

Benefit fraud is the act of knowingly claiming benefits that you’re not entitled to. Common ways that people commit benefit fraud include: not letting the benefit office know about a change of circumstances (e.g. their partner moving in with them), pretending to have a disability and not informing the benefit office that they have started a new job. Benefit fraud is a serious offence, which can result in fines, cautions or even imprisonment.

In this article, we’ll address some of the most pressing questions regarding benefit fraud and the penalties that you could face if you commit this crime.

Who can be prosecuted for benefit fraud?

It’s not just the person who claims benefits that can be prosecuted for benefit fraud. Anyone found guilty of knowingly giving false information can also be prosecuted. So if your employer or landlord make a statement in favour of you receiving more benefits than you legally should, they may also face prosecution.

Types of benefit fraud penalties

What is a caution?

If it’s your first time committing benefit fraud, and you fully admitted to the offence during your interview, you may be offered a caution by the council.

A caution is an official warning given by the council to the defendant, and is offered as an alternative to prosecution. This option does not result in a criminal record, however, it is kept on the Department for Work and Pensions database for five years.

What is an administrative penalty?

An administrative penalty is a fine that is calculated based on the amount of benefit that was overpaid to the defendant. The percentage can be 30% or 50%, but this depends on the date of the offence. If the defendant refuses to accept the penalty, there’s a high chance that the case will end in prosecution.

Benefit fraud prosecution

In some cases, the council will choose to prosecute the defendant. To do this, they will get a summons from the Magistrates Court, and the defendant will receive a court date in the post. Failure to attend the court date could result in further charges being brought against you.

If your case is more serious, you’ll be referred to to the Crown Court (see below).

Why would a case be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)?

Sometimes, benefit fraud cases are referred to the the CPS. These are usually more serious cases, but less serious cases can be passed on if the defendant has refused to accept previous penalties.

Reasons why cases may be referred to the CPS include:

  • The amount of benefits fraudulently claimed is £2,000 or more.
  • The defendant has been previously convicted of benefit fraud.
  • The defendant has assisted others with committing an offence.
  • The defendant has used false documents or identities.

What pieces of legislation may be used to convict me of benefit fraud?

The following pieces of legislation may be used against you during your benefit fraud case:

  • The Social Security Administration Act 1992
  • The Council Tax Reduction Schemes 2013
  • The Fraud Act 2006
  • The Theft Act 1986
  • The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

What should I do if i’ve been accused of benefit fraud?

If you have any further questions about benefit fraud, or you’re facing a benefit fraud investigation, you’ll need to obtain professional legal advice and counsel as soon as possible. Here at DPP Law, our dedicated team are experts in this field, so contact us today to discuss your next steps.

Posted on: Tue, 20 December 2016
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