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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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Benefit fraud under caution. I have been asked back for a second

Resolved Question:

Benefit fraud under caution. I have been asked back for a second interview under caution following an interview in October 2013. When I started work in January last year I failed to report the change. Until I went back to work I had been suffering from serious depression, frequent suicide attempts ( I took an overdose of my mothers pills when she came home to die - and ended up in Addenbrookes with her), alcohol dependency, loss of my businesses, my mothers death etc. After my mother died I had to go to look after my invalid father, and eventually resigned from my job because I had been on long term sick leave for depression and stress etc. I was taking citalapram, librium and epilepsy medication as I was suffering from frequent grand mal seizures. The whole period between 2009 and 2013 is really very woolly. I was so pleased to get a job last January -but was terrified that I wouldn't be able to hold it down. I made a stupid presumption that the 'computers would talk to each other' and the benefits had stopped as a natural process of communicating with each other. At the first interview their underpinning argument seemed to be that as an intelligent person I should have known better. And I suppose that they were right, however in my defence, I'd never claimed benefits before, and never read any of the literature other than filling in the forms in desperation. I'm in a real mess - especially as I have now secured a more permanent contract with my employer, and my employment requires a fully enhanced CRB check. At 57 this could finish me off forever. I know I have been stupid and negligent and had made a big mistake. They do not know about my addictions or mental health issues. I have no money other than my earnings. Can you advise? - I don't expect any good news, and can you give me an idea as to the time lime from here.

Many thanks

Dee
Please do not publish my real name.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

How can I help with this please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry - are you an American solicitor? As such I cannot imagine you being able to help me

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No. I'm in the UK.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry - then in that case can you please refund my payment a.s.a.p.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Apologies I saw EST and presumed that were not in the Uk. Can you let me know what extra information you need

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No problem.

Just wondering what you wanted to know about this situation?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Probably easier to forget it, I'm finding it all too complicated. Please refund my card

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
My name isXXXXX and I'm based in London.

What exactly do you wish to know?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

What can I do - if anything? What is the time frame ie how long would it take on average to reach a final conclusion, and any other advice and help you might be able to giver me

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
No problem.

I will need to ask you some preliminary questions just to get a good idea of your situation, so please bear with me.

What was the change in circumstances?


Do you have any convictions or cautions at all?


How much overpayment are they seeking to recoup?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Change of circumstances - claiming 25% pension early in May 2012 to make ends meet. Start of new temporary teaching contract in Jan 2013 ( which has now been re-issued from Feb 24th until Sept 2015


 


I HAVE NEVER EVER been in any trouble with the law before in my life


 


I'm not sure about the amount possibly £12,000 at most. I have reached an arrangement with suffolk coastal to repay rates - so do not need to add that inj - they had a rep' at the initial interview. I was claiming housing benefit, income support and carers allowance - but have no idea how much that was

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
Understood.

I can see your explanation about not reporting the change.

But you must have been receiving benefits and your salary at the same time for a number of months.

Did you not query the benefits payments?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Stupidly no. I was so focused on getting back into work and keeping the job that that was my only concern. I presumed that paying PAYE and NIC would automatically flag up that I was earning money, and they would stop. I didn't even take any notice of my bank account as my partner took care of all that and I just drew £100 per week to keep as expenses. Ignorance is no defense I realise that now. He is unemployed and has been for most of the past 8 years, so we were claiming as a couple.

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
OK.

I'll need about 10 - 15 mins to prepare an answer.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Incidentally the payments were made into two different account i.e my salary and benefits payments

Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for your patience.

In all probability you will be prosecuted for making a dishonest claim on the basis that you failed to notify a change of circumstances which would affect your entitlement to benefit. There is no time limit to prosecute for this type of benefit fraud. In lesser cases the time limits are 6 and 12 months - but this will not apply to you. The law for this is set out in the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (as amended).

Unfortunately, having mental health problems or addictions is no defence in law. Claiming benefits whilst working is clearly dishonest and although your explanation might amount to mitigation to reduce the sentence, it will not help you to defend any charges that might be brought against you. The legal test for dishonesty is set out in a case called R v Ghosh - and having reminded myself of that case just now, I simply do not see how you could avoid a conviction if prosecuted.

However, all that being said, if there are genuine medical reasons why you were unable to manage your affairs then you ought to obtain medical reports and submit these to the investigators and ask them not to prosecute. Significant medical problems, whilst not a defence, might persuade the agency to recoup the money without prosecuting. They can do this as they have a discretion not to prosecute in the 'public interest'.

Bearing in mind the amount of money you have mentioned and the period of time over which the alleged offence is said to have taken place, if you are prosecuted and convicted, I think the court will impose a community penalty e.g. unpaid work, supervision, curfew - rather than a prison sentence. The latter is reserved for the most serious offences where the value is very high or there was professional planning involved. Notwithstanding the sentence, a conviction will, of course, result in a criminal record which will be on your record for life, but if a community penalty is imposed, it will only be discloseable for 5 years.

Your willingness to repay the money, explanation, good character and job will go very much in your favour, but based on the explanation you have given its very difficult to see how you could defend a prosecution. I am not being negative, but trying to give you an objective opinion based on my experience. I hope you understand.

Just going back to the time frame: there is no time limit to prosecute although this has to be within a reasonable period of time. Most cases that I deal with are being prosecuted 12 - 18 months from the start of the investigation. If charged you will be given a date for the first hearing within one month of the summons being sent out you. If you decide to contest the matter it will usually take about 4 - 8 months for the case to reach trial.

Hope this helps.

Alex

Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience: Partner in national law firm
Alice H and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Alice H replied 3 years ago.
The money being paid into two separate accounts is not helpful at all I'm afraid.