- 4 updates
The new guidelines set out the factors that prosecutors should take into account when advising the court on allocation – whether to send cases to the Crown Court – and also act as the aggravating factors that prosecutors will draw to the sentencing court’s attention.
- whether the fraud was professionally planned
- whether the fraud was carried out over a significant period of time
- whether multiple frauds occurred (multiple frauds include where one false declaration or a failure to disclose a change of circumstances results in multiple payments)
- use of a false or stolen identity
- relevant previous convictions / cautions/previous out of court disposals for benefit fraud
- an attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
- abuse of a position of trust
- substantial consequential loss to public funds
Benefit fraud suspects can now be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
In the past, benefit cheats have often been pursued under specific social security legislation which carries a maximum term of seven years.
A financial threshold which prevented benefit fraud cases of less than £20,000 from being sent to crown court will also be abolished, the CPS said.
Benefit cheats will face increased jail terms of up to 10 years in a crackdown on those who "flout the system", Britain's most senior prosecutor has said.
Keir Starmer QC warned it was time for a "tough stance" against the perpetrators of benefit and tax credit fraud as he set out new guidelines for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The Director of Public Prosecutions said the £1.9 billion annual cost of the crime to the taxpayer should be at the "forefront of lawyers' minds" when considering whether a prosecution was in the public interest.