Council Tax Overpayment, Housing Benefit Overpayment, Job Centre Interview, DWP Interview, DWP Prosecution,
The term “benefit fraud” is applied to a range of offences and situations that you could find yourself in almost by accident. Applications for benefits can be complex, or your circumstances could change that affect what benefits you’re entitled to, and you could be accused of committing a fraud against the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP).
You could be accused of benefit fraud for:
- Giving inaccurate details of household income, or not providing details of employment when applying for Job Seeker’s Allowance
- Claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit for a higher amount than they actually pay
- Claiming as a single person when living with a partner
Often, it takes a long time before anyone realises that there has been an overpayment of benefits. This means that the total overpayment has kept growing before the DWP investigate, and you could be accused of dishonestly obtaining thousands of pounds.
Interview Under Caution at the Job Centre
Many people accused of benefit fraud have never been accused of a crime before, and the first you know about the case is getting a letter from the DWP, Job Centre, or Council asking you to come for an interview under caution. If you are asked to go to an interview under caution, you have a right to have a solicitor there with you. This is usually free, and having a solicitor with you can make a huge difference to the outcome of your case. Even if you think you have done nothing wrong, it can really help you to have someone with you offering you advice about your rights and the evidence against you.
If you have been asked to attend for an interview about your benefits, call us to see how we can help you.
Benefit frauds usually fall into 2 categories:
- Dishonestly making a false representation or statement (s.111A Social Security Administration Act 1992)
- Making a representation or statement known to be false(s.112 Social Security Administration Act 1992)
It makes an important difference if someone is accused of dishonestly making a false representation, as this offence can be heard “either way”, i.e. in the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. Usually if the value is over £20,000 the Magistrates will decide it is too serious for their sentencing powers, and commit the case to the Crown Court. Even if the value of the alleged overpayment is less than this, a defendant would still have the right to elect for their case to be heard before a Judge and Jury in the Crown Court.
If someone is charged with the other benefit fraud offences, the case can only be heard in the Magistrates Court.
In any case of benefit fraud, it is important that you have an experienced solicitor such as Stephen Lickrish & Associates to advise you and act in your best interests throughout the case.
Even in cases where you admit that you have received more than you are entitled to, there can be disagreements about the exact overpayment. If appropriate, Stephen Lickrish & Associates will instruct an expert to review the evidence to try and reduce the final overpayment figure. Sometimes as much as three quarters of the amount the DWP originally claimed is reduced, which means the Court can deal with your case in a more lenient way.
Benefit fraud cases can be serious and complicated, so if you or someone you know is being investigated, you should instruct a solicitor to advise you. Stephen Lickrish & Associates have experience in representing clients from the original interview under caution with the DWP, through to trial at the Magistrates or Crown Court. We represent clients throughout Greater Manchester and the North West, as well as all around the country, so contact us to see how we can help you.