On 16th September 2013 the Director of Public Prosecutions published new guidelines for prosecutors dealing with fraud cases involving state benefits and tax credits. The charging standards will apply to anyone suspected of benefit fraud against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The new guidance follows the merger of the DWP Prosecutions Division with the CPS in April 2012 and the transfer of prosecutorial staff to the CPS Welfare, Rural and Health Division.
The guidance states that where prosecutors anticipate a very substantial prison sentence, they should charge under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, rather than using specific social security legislation which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
In practice, cases serious enough to carry a sentence over seven years are relatively rare. Consequently, despite the headlines, the new guidelines will make little or no practical difference to most cases and sentencing guidelines remain unchanged.
We have considerable experience of benefit fraud cases, so if you under investigation or required to attend for interview for any type of benefit fraud case, contact us now for advice.
If you are under investigation for tax credit or benefit fraud, we can help. Call our experienced team on 0808 252 7395
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