Hamer Childs deal with the entire range of benefit fraud. The more common type of cases will generally involve a person not declaring that they are working whilst claiming benefits or that inherited money or cash gifts are not declared. Similarly, it is quite common for people to fail to declare that they are living together as husband and wife. We deal with all of these sort of cases and much more. Some benefit fraud cases can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court whilst others because of the amount involved and/or their complexity will almost inevitably be dealt with in the Crown Court. Either way, you will benefit from advice and assistance from Hamer Childs.
The Investigation Stage
The first you are likely to hear about any benefit fraud allegation is when you are invited to attend an interview with a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) investigator. The DWP’s internal fraud investigators manual emphasises the need to obtain admissions during any such interview. Help from Hamer Childs is therefore vital at this early stage.
Assuming that you are still on benefits, or, of limited income, Hamer Childs provide free legal advice and assistance. However, if you are not on benefits Hamer Childs have a fixed fee for attending an interview under caution with the DWP of £200 plus VAT (£240).
If you attend an interview under caution without help from Hamer Childs you will be kept in the dark concerning the case against you. If you obtain help from Hamer Childs then you will at least be aware of the case against you before you are interviewed. You will also receive help from Hamer Childs during the interview itself.
Often suspension of benefits runs alongside an investigation. Suspension of benefit is discretionary for most benefits which means that what you say may or may not lead to your benefits being suspended. It is obviously important that if you have a good case you put this forward in interview. The problem is that without help from Hamer Childs a person may not realise whether they have a good case or not. With help from Hamer Childs you will be advised about this.
If you believe that you have not been wrongly claiming and your benefit is suspended you have a right of appeal against this decision. It is very important that you do this as should you not appeal then you will have to pay back all of the money that the DWP say that you have wrongly claimed. You usually have one month to do this although in rare circumstances it is possible to appeal out of time.
If your benefit is suspended and you either do not appeal, or the appeal is determined against you, this is not necessarily fatal to defending any later prosecution.
In certain circumstances, if you accept that you have been wrongly claiming, it is possible to suggest that a case be dealt with by way of administrative penalty or caution which means your case need not go to Court. Again, you will need help from Hamer Childs in relation to this.
The Court Stage
If your case does go to Court we will ensure that you are properly represented throughout.
To begin with, we will advise you whether you are eligible for legal aid and assist you with your application for representation. Please see our funding page for eligibility but in brief you will only be eligible for legal aid in the Magistrates’ Court if you, together with your partner, do not have a total income from all sources before tax, or any other deduction, of more than £12,475 per year, or £239.90 per week.
If you either plead guilty or are found guilty then you will be sentenced for the offence you have committed. In relation to benefit fraud matters the starting point for sentence is usually based on the amount of overpayment. Very often, the overpayment figure is incorrect. This could make the difference between going to prison and not going to prison.
Just as often as a person may have been claiming fraudulently, they could have made a legitimate claim for benefits. It is the difference between these two figures which is the true loss to the government or local authority. This is the figure that needs to be calculated and put before the Court. We can arrange for this calculation to be done on your behalf. Again this could make the difference between going to prison and not going to prison.
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