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New Sentencing Guidelines for Fraud, Bribery and Money Laundering offences published today

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New Sentencing Guidelines for Fraud, Bribery and Money Laundering offences published today

The Sentencing Council has today published a new guideline covering offences of Fraud, Bribery and Money Laundering. It takes effect on 1 October 2014 for all offenders sentenced on or after that date. So this is very relevant if you are currently facing charges of this nature and are either found guilty or plead guilty and are sentenced on and after 1 October 2014.

This will be the first publication for guidelines for the sentencing of money laundering offences. It was recognised that money laundering offences constituted very serious crime and that effective guidance should be in place to deal with such offences.

There were over 17,000 successful prosecutions in 2012 where people were sentenced for fraud. However, fraud charges can encompass a large variety of offences from minor offences of using someone else’s Oyster card to the most serious MTIC frauds and tax evasion which affect individuals, businesses, public money and charities.

  • Fraud against individuals cost victims £9.1bn in 2012-3. It included Ponzi schemes, gangs targeting people using cash points, cowboy builders ripping off vulnerable older people, identity fraud and internet offences like phishing and running fake online ticket sites.
  • Private sector fraud cost businesses £21.2bn in 2012-3. Examples included employees claiming expenses fraudulently, suppliers making fraudulent payment claims, cash for crash scams and other insurance fraud and people falsifying mortgage applications.
  • Fraud targeting public money amounted to £20.6bn in 2012-3. This mainly comprised of tax fraud such as income tax evasion and VAT fraud but also included council tax fraud and benefit fraud.
  • Fraud against the not-for-profit sector cost charities £147m in 2012-3. Examples included charity employees diverting donations to their own bank account, individuals conning grant funding from a charity on false pretences, or bogus charity collectors and scams against large lottery funding.

Research commissioned by the Sentencing Council revealed that these crimes can mean far more than just financial loss – even losing quite a small sum can have a devastating impact on some victims. Individuals may suffer emotionally and psychologically, losing confidence in their ability to manage their financial affairs, as well as finding themselves in financial difficulties and having their credit rating damaged.

This new sentencing guideline places victim impact at the centre of considerations of what sentence the offender should get. This may mean higher sentences for some offenders compared to the current guideline, particularly where the financial loss is relatively small but the impact on the victim is high.

It also aims to ensure that the victim’s vulnerability is given due weight. An example would be where the victim is particularly vulnerable due to their age. For example a rogue cowboy builder conning an elderly victim into unnecessary building work at extortionate prices.

The Council has also broadened how harm is described in the guideline so that the courts are not restricted in what they take into account since harm to fraud victims can be extremely varied.

At MPR Solicitors, we are specialists in the defence of Fraud and Serious Fraud and Complex Crime. Our expert fraud lawyers and fraud barristers can guide individuals and corporate entities through this often complex area and can give you pragmatic legal advice.