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Benefit fraud is not the same as benefit overpayments. Receiving overpayments can be the result of a mistake by the benefits office or because you may not have been aware that you had to inform the benefit office of any change in your circumstances which meant you were entitled to less benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will usually prosecute you if you deliberately make a claim for benefits you’re not entitled to or if you fail to disclose information that affects how much benefit you receive. It can also take legal action against you if you’ve committed benefit fraud by abusing your position or if you’ve used a false identity to claim benefits.

Prosecutions will normally start with an interview under caution. You don’t have to appoint the duty solicitor; you have the right to request a solicitor of your choice to represent you. If the police think they have enough evidence to prosecute you, legal proceedings will start with a formal charge or a court summons. 

This is a serious matter and we strongly advise that you contact us to arrange legal representation for you. Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for legal aid and this is something we can advise you on. We’ll also be able to inform you of where your case will be heard and guide you on what your plea should be and the likely sentence.

Legal aid is available, but it’s means tested so not everyone can access it. We have lots of experience in this area and can advise on whether you’re eligible or not.
This largely depends on the amount of money alleged to have been obtained. Offences where the amount is up to £10,000 will usually be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court. Amounts of £10,000 to £50,000 can be dealt with either at the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court. Which court hears it will depend on individual factors relating to the case. Offences of £50,000 and above are likely to be sent to Crown Court.

A number of factors can determine the seriousness of your case. Generally, the amount of money involved and the length of time the fraud was carried out over are primary considerations for the court. Also, whether the proceeds of the fraud were used to fund a lavish lifestyle will have a bearing on the sentence. 

On the other hand, there may be mitigating circumstances where a reduced sentence is more appropriate, such as no previous convictions, remorse or ill health. While this is a broad guide, each case is unique and we recommend you speak to us so we can advise you on your individual circumstances.

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