What are the consequences of committing benefit fraud?
What do we do with people when we catch them committing fraud?
In every case where we establish that fraud has been committed or where a person has claimed benefits to which they were not entitled, the customer will have to pay back the money in full. If any resulting overpayment is not repaid, the council can pursue recovery through the courts: find a court or tribunal (GOV.UK)
When a person has been interviewed under caution about an alleged offence, the council (which includes Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council, Harborough District Council and Oadby & Wigston Borough Council) will use the information gained from the interview, together with other evidence, in order to make a decision on whether further action is appropriate and what form that action should take.
If you are invited to attend your interview under caution, and fail to attend any of your appointments, the council will make the decision on whether or not further action will be taken against you, based upon the evidence it already holds.
Where the council believes that an offence has been committed, there are three courses of action that can be taken:
A caution can be offered where the person interviewed has committed an offence and has admitted they have committed this offence for financial gain.
The caution is a warning given by the council and is offered as an alternative to the council passing the case through for consideration of prosecution.
The caution is similar to a police caution however it does not result in a criminal record. The caution itself is recorded by the council and kept on record for five years.
If the offer of the caution is accepted by the offender, the council will take no further action against you. If the offer of the caution is refused however, the council may pass the case for consideration of prosecution.
An administrative penalty is a fixed penalty, and takes the form of a fine which is calculated as a percentage of the benefit overpayment arising from the offence. The percentage is 50%.
There is no right of appeal against the penalty, and it is payable in addition to the overpaid benefit.
An administrative penalty can be offered where the council believes that an offence has been committed but where it decides to offer the penalty as an alternative to prosecution.
If the penalty offer is refused, or if the offender initially accepts the offer but goes on to change their mind within the subsequent 14 days cooling-off period, the council may then pass the case for consideration of prosecution.
Whilst the administrative penalty is an alternative to prosecution, the council can still take civil recovery action against you in a court of law if you fail to repay both the debt and the administrative penalty.
If the council decides an offence has been committed but it doesn't consider a caution or administrative penalty is appropriate, it may decide to prosecute.
If this decision is made, a letter will be sent to the offender to advise them that their case has been passed to the council's legal services for prosecution proceedings to be taken.
If the Legal Team decides to continue with the prosecution, they will obtain a summons from the Magistrates court. The offender will receive a summons to attend court and will need to obtain legal representation when they attend for their hearing.
Cases will initially be heard in the Magistrates court, however (depending on the nature of case) it may be considered so serious that the court decides that it should be heard within the Crown Court. Proceedings taken by the council are usually for offences contained within the following pieces of legislation, although other charges may be used where appropriate:
- The council tax reduction schemes (Detection of Fraud and Enforcement Regulations) (England) Regulations 2013
- The Fraud Act 2006
- The Theft Act 1986
- The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
All of our successful prosecution cases are publicised in the local press and on the internet, which hopefully helps to deter more people from committing benefit fraud.
Last updated: 26/05/2022, 12:17