Fraud prosecution halted after service of medical evidence
Our client was charged with an ESA fraud worth £20,000. We were instructed privately in this Crown Court case. The prosecution had to prove that our client had acted dishonestly.
Our client had capital of up to £115,000 which he had not declared. This meant that his entitlement to benefits would have been nil. Unfortunately there was a complex history to the claim. This was relevant to his defence that he had not acted dishonestly. Further there were some difficult forensic problems. For instance our client needed to explain why he had not declared capital.
The case against
At interview our client had used a different solicitor. He answered all the questions and told the DWP investigators that he did have savings. Significantly his savings included an ISA.and he had also received money from a will. Regrettably, he had also said that he simply did not get around to telling the DWP about his capital. This is an admission that he knew that he should have reported his savings. He contradicted this later when he said that if he had known he was required to tell the DWP about his savings he would have done so. As he did not know, he had not told them. Another problem included a record of a telephone call in which the DWP had written down that our client said he had savings of just over £1000.
Our client said that in addition to his physical problems he had vitamin B12 deficiency which affected his memory. As a result, he had poor recollection and further that he might be at a disadvantage in interview. We took a full history of the case and most importantly prepared a defence case statement which challenged the Crown’s case. It set out our client’s case that:
- He was not aware of the capital limit rules
- He had not acted dishonestly.
- We challenged the admissibility of the interview under caution.
- The written account of his statement about capital was not admissible as evidence because the DWP could not produce a recording of the telephone call.
The medical evidence
We arranged for a senior clinical psychologist to examine him. Fortunately in a 20-page report the psychologist concluded that:
“There are some examples within the transcript where the defendant ‘s condition [B12 deficiency] impacted on the interview which could call into question the reliability of his answers on these occasions, and these typically arose at times of higher pressure or challenge from the interviewer”
This was very useful evidence because it allowed us to attack the half admissions made in interview.
A further benefit was useful observations about the effect of B12 deficiency on memory. Accordingly, we wrote to the prosecution serving the report as evidence and inviting them to discontinue. Our representations were that under the code for Crown prosecutors a conviction was now unlikely and that furthermore our client was able and willing to repay the overpayment.
The prosecution agreed and our client was discharged.