f you are accused of benefit fraud reaching a conclusion can be a long and complex process. If you believe you are being accused, it is very important to understand that process. Here’s some help on how to do just that.
Are You Actually Being Accused?
You might believe you are under investigation and in fact, it is only a routine review. Receiving a letter asking for you to confirm information and provide proof does not necessarily mean you are under investigation or accused of anything. However, if you have received a letter informing you to attend an interview under caution the chances are, they are investigating. This is usually a good time to get advice. You will not be told what they are investigating until you attend. However, if you have a legal representative with you, certain details will be disclosed before your interview begins. This can help to prepare your case more effectively.
Who Can Help?
The citizens advice bureau can provide some advice on how to provide proof of your circumstances and what to do if your benefits are stopped. If they are investigating it is important to understand this is the same as any other formal criminal investigation. This is a formal interview carried out under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which means it will be taped and what you say can be used against you in court – If indeed the accusations are taken to court. Because it is a criminal investigation you are entitled to free and independent legal advice – The same as if you were arrested. There are specialist benefit fraud solicitors dealing with this niche area. Without doubt, they can provide the best and most comprehensive advice.
What Could Happen if Accused?
The investigators will usually decide whether to proceed to court after the interview. Getting legal advice sooner rather than later will ensure your case is dealt with appropriately. Having a solicitor with you for the interview can be the difference between going to court or not. An experienced solicitor will try to find an alternative solution. The decision as to whether a “recoverable overpayment” is due is not made during the interview. You might receive a letter informing you of that payment. A decision will be made as to whether to prosecute. A successful prosecution can result in prison, a fine, repayment as well as lost or reduced benefit payments. A professional solicitor will be able to advise you on the most probable outcome.
In the first instance do not panic. If they are simply asking a few questions, try to answer them as clearly and accurately as possible and provide all the proof you can. If you are attending a formal interview under caution it makes sense to get a legal representative. The benefit system is complex and somewhat long-winded. A professional benefits fraud solicitor knows that system and can help resolve problems as well as advise you on possible outcomes. When it comes to “complex” it stands to reason that these things are best left to the professionals. When it comes to the law it makes the same sense to contact a solicitor for sound legal advice.