Being accused of a crime is a frightening experience for most people. One of the common issues that we deal with at KP Solicitors in St Helens is benefit fraud. Often, these cases involve small amounts of money and come about because our clients make a mistake of some sort. An example would be a person whose circumstances changed but they didn’t inform the benefits office. Other cases of benefit fraud can, of course, involve thousands of pounds of overpayments, offences which usually lead to a trial in criminal court.
Specific instances where benefit fraud occurs include:
- You started working but didn’t inform the benefits people that you are now receiving an income.
- You went from being single to having a partner living with you or didn’t reveal that you were living with someone from the start.
- You began receiving a student loan or bursary for education but didn’t inform the benefits office.
- You weren’t completely open about the amount of savings you had or you received money from an inheritance that you kept secret.
- You’re working but still claiming at the same time.
- You’re claiming for a disability but don’t have one.
If you are being charged or accused of benefits fraud, it means there is a certain level of proof that you have been dishonest or misleading in your claim. For some, this might just be down to a simple error or delay in forming the office. Others, because they are short of money, have not informed the benefits team of any change because they need to get over a particularly difficult period. The problem is that these small issues can lead to prosecution if you are found out.
Each job centre has its own fraud investigation team and they can bring charges not only against individuals who are claiming dishonestly but any person or business that helps them in anyway – for example, a company that pays cash in hand because they know the person is claiming benefit.
There is no time limit on investigating or charging people for benefit fraud. If you committed an act of fraud several years ago but are now working and leading a different life, you can still be charged if evidence is found that supports wrongdoing on your part.
When you are accused or suspected of benefit fraud you will almost certainly be interviewed. This can either be informally or under caution. Either way, if you find yourself in this predicament you will need the help of a criminal lawyer who knows about benefit fraud and who can protect your rights.
Getting the best advice and guidance at the start can often prevent criminal charges from being brought against you. Much will depend on the strength of the case against you and the amount of overpayment by the benefits office. Cases will be referred to the criminal court if they are over £2,000 or less than this if you have refused to accept any penalty or sanction.
At KP Solicitors we have the professional team in place to help you if you have been accused of benefits fraud. Contact us today to find out how we can assist.