Latest Public Sector News

16.09.13

Tougher sentencing for benefit cheats

People who “flout” the benefit system will face increased sentences, new guidelines for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) set out.

Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC, set out the stricter guidelines, which include the ability to charge benefit cheat suspects under the Fraud Act, with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The financial threshold preventing benefit fraud cases of less than £20,000 being sent to court will also be abolished.

Starmer said: “It is a myth that 'getting one over on the system' is a victimless crime: the truth is we all pay the price. It is vital that we take a tough stance on this type of fraud and I am determined to see a clampdown on those who flout the system.

“The guidance for prosecutors is clear that if the evidence demonstrates an element of dishonesty, rather than just knowledge of a fraud, the appropriate charges should be used.

“This will ensure that following conviction, all options are on the table for magistrates and judges including custodial sentences. Indeed, prosecutors are also instructed not to shy away from using a range of legislation that carries higher sentences where it is merited.

“The cost to the nation incurred by benefit fraud should be at the forefront of lawyers' minds when considering whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The loss of £1.9bn of public money has a significant impact on communities up and down the country.

“Where frauds have been professionally planned, carried out over a long period of time and include attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, then we will make this plain when advising the courts on sentencing.”

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