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Benefit Fraud cheats could face ten-year prison sentences

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The DPP, Keir Starmer QC published new guidelines for prosecutors dealing with fraud cases involving state benefits and tax credits. He announced an unprecedented crackdown on those who committed benefit fraud against the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) citing those who cheat the system will face increased jail terms of up to 10 years. The announcement was made after the CPS took over legal work and prosecutions for the DWP. Benefit fraud costs the UK over £1.9 billion every year.

The CPS charging standards sets out the approach prosecutors should take in deciding the appropriate offences to use so that the charge matches the crime in line with the prosecution of fraud more generally. Prosecutors have also been told to charge under the Fraud Act which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years compared to using specific social security legislation which only carries a maximum sentence of 7 years.

Aggravating features of a benefit fraud crime which will carry the higher sentences are:

  • Professionally planned
  • Conducted over a long period of time
  • Multiple frauds and these include situations where one false declaration or a failure to disclose a change of circumstances results in multiple payments
  • Use of a false identity
  • Previous convictions
  • Attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
  • Substantial loss to public funds

Mr Starmer QC said “Last year, the CPS saw over 8,600 prosecutions of this type and in the first five months of this year, we completed 4,086 prosecutions. The CPS currently has 729 cases awaiting a charging decision and 591 cases where charges have been authorised and are awaiting a court date. The current conviction rate remains strong at 89.7%.”

Mr Starmer added: “I am convinced that we are now better placed than ever before to tackle economic crime. The dedicated and specialist staff who joined us from the DWP have significantly bolstered our resources and now work closely alongside other fraud experts in the service. This means greater efficiency and consistency so that fraudsters and the public alike can be in little doubt about the tough stance the CPS will take in the fight on fraud.”

At MPR Solicitors, we have a wealth of experience in defending Benefit Fraud and often accompany our clients to interviews under caution with the DWP at an early stage as a suspect’s defence starts at the investigation stage.

Please feel free to contact one of our specialist Benefit Fraud lawyers who are all qualified solicitors for an initial free consultation to see how we can make a difference and help you to defend yourself.