Reduced sentence in Moss & Co Benefit Fraud case
Our client was summonsed to attend court in relation to an allegation of benefit fraud. He was accused of making a claim for income based JSA without declaring all his savings. He had been charged under the more serious offence of acting dishonestly contrary to s111a of the Social Security Administration Act which carries a maximum penalty of up to seven years imprisonment. He explained that he had never been in trouble before. He had purchased the family council home but had almost immediately been made redundant. He was worried about how he would pay the mortgage and the service charges. He said he had not been dishonest. Our Mr Keith Hollywood represented him at Court and persuaded the prosecutor to withdraw the allegation of dishonesty and substitute the lesser offence of failing to disclose relevant information contrary to s112 which carries a maximum sentence of 3 months imprisonment.. Mr Hollywood explained the circumstances to the court, highlighting the personal problems our client faced. He persuaded the Court not to follow the benefit fraud sentencing guidelines and to impose a fine rather than a community order.
In this benefit fraud case the evidence was strong but because it was the first hearing and as the prosecutor had not fully assimilated the papers it was possible to persuade them to reduce the charge to the lesser offence. It is worth being represented even if a client thinks they will have to plead guilty. It is obviously much better to plead to an offence which does not include an allegation of dishonesty and where the sentencing guidelines are much less harsh. A defendant appearing alone would not have the legal knowledge or skill to persuade the prosecutor.