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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70417
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am being prosecuted overpayment to the value

Customer Question

I am being prosecuted for benefit overpayment to the value of £6000 because I failed to inform them of circumstance changes. I have evidence that I have informed them of other changes and HMRC of changes but I simply forgot to phone the council to inform them of an increase in working hours meaning a large over payment has built up over the last 4 years. In addition to this I have a family of 4 children, 2 of which are autistic and can be very demanding . The family were involved in Domestic violence from their father and the scars are still there. I will have to plead guilty as I have not informed them albeit not deliberately. I work full time in a demanding job as well as managing the family. I have already paid £2000 back and have agreed to £500 per month with council until the balance is cleared. However they are still pursuing this. My main question is, would a judge take into account my current employment? It is likely that I would be dismissed for this if it got out into the press which would make my family suffer. Secondly, we still receive threats and hassle from my partners ex husband who is violent and aggressive and has been convicted in the past. Publishing my name and address in the press would alert him to our new location, would this be taken into account too as this would compromise the safety of the whole family?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
I am sorry but that is not a consideration for the court. At least, it is possible to mitigate on the basis that the fact of the conviction will fall onerously upon you because of the dismissal but that won't change the sentence all that much.
On your other point, this is a public hearing and you will be asked to confirm your address in court. If the press choose to print it then they are free to do so. It seems an odd thing to print but it is a matter for them. There is an application that you can make to restrict the press but I really wouldn't suggest it. The first problem is that the Judge would almost certainly think you are just trying to present yourself as a victim to gain sympathy. I'm afraid that some defendants do that. The second problem though is that there isn't really a basis. The law requires a situation where there is literally a mob that is likely to be incited to attend at a person's address and so it would be a public order problem. The third problem is that if you make the application and there are any journalists in court that will be a red rag to a bull for them. They can always find ways around the restrictions even if they are imposed.
I'm very sorry but I have to give you truthful information. Freedom of the press is a really hallowed part of our constitution.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Would an out of court settlement be a possibility based on the fact that if I am prosecuted and lose my job I will find it difficult to pay the money back to them? E.g if agreed to pay the balance and the court costs within 7 days

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
We don't have out of court settlements in the criminal courts.
You can always make representations to the effect it isn't in the public interest to prosecute you and ask them to consider the impact it will have but I'm afraid you should probably brace yourself for that to fail.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I don't understand what they are gaining from this as I have agreed to pay it all back, all it will do for them is result in the money not being paid back if I lose my job.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
I think probably they will say that it is generally in the public interest that crime is prosecuted. They have cracked down on benefit fraud substantially in recent years. A few years ago they may not have pursued it.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I had the interview under caution in December and only received a letter with the summons on Yesterday, is this the normal timeframe? I thought she suggested that it was within a month when I was interviewed. The reason I ask is that I have had an issue with the repayments (their fault not mine) and was sent another reminder notice to pay even though I was doing. It seems to have happened coincidently, I wondered whether this had come about due to their system showing I had missed a payment when in actual fact I hadn't. Would 4 months after the interview be an expected timeframe to receive this?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes, that is fairly standard. It isn't time sensitive.
it is an either way offence so there is no real pressure on them and they do tend to act accordingly.
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks, ***** ***** of fine am I looking at here based on the fact that I already have a payment plan in place and have paid a third back already?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
What was the change of circumstances
What were the benefits?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

On the birth of my daughter I dropped to 30 hours per week, 1 year later I returned to 37 and failed to inform them. There are a few other instances they are claiming I should have informed them of overtime but I didn't. Over a period of 3 years overpayment obviously built up. It was for a combination of housing benefit and council tax. As stated I immediately set a payment plan up for £500 per month and have already paid £2000 back. There is evidence of me informing both HMRC and the council about changes that would lower what they pay so I am unsure as to why I didn't inform them of this. There is 5 summons but they all equate to the same reason but with different dates on over the last 4 years, I presume these are the dates award notices were sent out that I failed to check correctly. The irony is when I moved into my purchased property I ended the claims but was informed I could still claim council tax benefit although it would be very little due to me owning a property. I did apply and send all my updated payslips and bank statements in which turned out not to match what they ad on file, Is this really the act of someone who has genuinely tried to claim £6000 that I wasn't entitled to.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Is the total sum £6k?
I'm happy to continue with this but please leave feedback for my answer.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Sorry, I have left feedback. Just over 6K in total. I have decided to pay all the balance back in full prior to the hearing too.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks
Can I presume you have no previous matters?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

That is correct yes.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks.
It is fair to say that this is not the worst instance of benefit fraud. Failing to reports a change of circumstances is entirely different from. From the outset.
However, this is an amount of money that isn't insignificant. It isn't the largest sum but it is too large really for a conditional discharge or a fine unless you are incredibly lucky.
I would expect a low-level community order. The difficulty with that is that you don't really have any issues to address so I would imagine that you will end up with something like unpaid work or something similar.
If you have repaid it all before the data sentence then that will be very helpful. Every defendant says that they will repay it and few actually do and even fewer repay it all.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank You, ***** ***** potential unpaid work be worked around my full time job?

One final question I have, would the press be allowed to name my employer in any article written about this? The situation I am in is if they do I could be dismissed, if they don't I would be ok.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Yes, they will take into account your circumstances.
They would but they are not likely to do that. It is quite unlikely the press would attend at all really. It isn't that type of case.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Can I ask why you think the press would be unlikely to name my employer in any article?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
It is just not particularly relevant to the story.
I'm not sure the Crown would even name your employer if they even know about it.