Legal Guides

Defending Benefit Fraud

By  |  03.10.2016

A benefit fraud investigation can often be a complex and lengthy process. It is therefore vital that you understand the route of an investigation and what to do once you suspect or believe that you are under investigation.

Where to turn

This area of law is niche and specialised. It is vital to get the right help at the right time. Sonn Macmillan Walker solicitors are market leaders in defending benefit fraud. Cecilia Goodwin has delivered lectures to other lawyers in this field and has an in-depth knowledge of the investigation process, the arguments in favour of those accused of benefit fraud and the court process should the case proceed to court.

It is important to seek advice as early as possible to ensure that your case dealt with properly, especially when seeking to persuade the DWP or Local Authorities not to proceed to court. Many clients turn to us having received poor advice from other legal advisors which in turn has meant that alternatives to prosecutions have not been considered.

Will I need a Lawyer?

A benefit fraud investigation is a formal criminal investigation. If you are invited to attend an interview under caution you will be formally interviewed under the provisions of PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) which means:

a. The interview WILL be tape recorded;

b. You have the right to free and independent legal advice;

c. The tape may be played in court if your case proceeds to court.

It is therefore important to consult/ instruct a lawyer in these matters. You wouldn’t be interviewed by the police without a lawyer would you?

Benefit Fraud Interviews

The fraud investigation regarding your claim for benefits begins well before you are formally invited to attend an interview under caution.  You will be sent a letter by the Council or the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) stating the following:

  1. Date and location of the interview under caution;
  2. Your right to consult a lawyer;
  3. Your right to attend with someone;
  4. Contact details of the investigations team.

What happens at the Interview?

When you attend the venue of the interview you will be met by two investigations officers. It is at this stage that you will be invited into a room for the formal interview.

  • You will only be informed of the alleged case against you once the interview begins.

If you have a lawyer, however, they will be given disclosure about your case before the interview begins.

It is always advisable to arrange representation so that you can prepare your case in advance.

  • During the interview you will asked questions regarding your claim and will be shown evidence.
  • Once the interview concludes a decision about whether a ‘recoverable overpayment’ exists will be made by a separate department (the overpayments department) and  you will receive a letter informing you of the overpayment amount if relevant. Consult a lawyer that specialises in benefit fraud to advise you about whether:

a.       The overpayment is ‘recoverable’ contrary to s.71 Social Security Administration Act

b.      Whether to appeal the overpayment

Decision Time

Following the interview the CPS/DWP will consider your file and make a decision about whether your case should proceed to prosecution or be referred for alternatives to prosecution. Your lawyer should be able to advise you the likely outcome having considered the case against you and having advised you about what to do in interview.

Be aware that there are time limits for appealing decisions made by the DWP/CPS.

Need further confidential advice? Call or email Cecilia Goodwin.

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