Benefit Fraud Lawyer

Client Guide to Financial Statements During the Confiscation Process

Confiscation law is one of the most complicated areas of criminal law. Roger Sahota is one of the leading criminal solicitors in this narrow field. We have prepared this guide for clients who are concerned at what will happen if they are involved in confiscation proceedings after their conviction.

This guide has been prepared in response to many frequently asked questions from of our confiscation clients we have prepared an overview of the confiscation process under POCA 2002.Itr predates the Serious Crime bill 2015. It is a general gude to the law and procedure - for specific advice on your individual case please contact a lawyer.

Below we set out the procedure for defendants who are asked to provide a financial statement after their conviction.

POCA Confiscation Procedure

Which Court?

The Confiscation procedure begins in the Crown Court after an Defendant has been sentenced.

Who Brings the Confiscation Proceedings?

The confiscation process begins as soon as a prosecutor requests it or the court believes it to be appropriate.  If the Prosecution requests it the Court must proceed.

The process begins in a case where the Prosecution brings proceedings when the Crown serves a notice on the Court under s 16 of POCA. This notice confirms their intention to apply for confiscation.

What is the Standard of Proof?

Unlike ordinary criminal cases, the standard of proof in any POCA case, for all parties is the balance of probabilities, a lower threshold than beyond reasonable doubt.

Ordinary rules of criminal evidence also do not apply so, for example, hearsay evidence is admissible.

What Information Must the Defendants Provide?

The Defendant will receive a statement from the Court issued under Section 18 (3) of the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The notice requires an Defendant to provide a statement detailing all of their assets and liabilities by a certain deadline. The Defendant must set out details of all assets including

•    property,
•    bank and building society accounts,
•    savings, investments, premium bonds,
•    stocks and shares,
•    cash deposits,
•    traveller cheques, postal orders and other financial instruments

In lifestyle cases, the defendant must provide details of any gifts of transfers received of property from the relevant date i.e. six years before the present case began.

Supporting documentation must also be provided including receipts, invoices, statements and proof of purchase and ownership.

The Court will provide a timetable for the Prosecution to reply to the statement from the Defence and the date for a final hearing.

What are the Prosecutor’s Powers?

A Section 16 POCA Notice, known as a Statement of Information will be prepared by the Crown’s Financial Investigator early in the proceedings and normally once the Defence statement has been received.

The statement contains all the matters that the Prosecutor believes are relevant for the court to consider when deciding the case.

The statement will indicate if the Crown claim that the Defendant has a criminal lifestyle.

During this process the Prosecution can use their investigative powers under POCA to make further enquiries to determine what assets a Defendant has.

The s 16 statement will set out the
•    relevant facts of the underlying conviction
•    summarise the defendant’s financial circumstances
•    what is believed to be is the defendants benefit, the recoverable and  available amount
•    the amount of the confiscation order requested
•    It will clearly state if the Prosecution believes that the defendant has hidden assets or has made tainted gifts.

What are the Court’s Powers?

The Court has various investigative powers it can exercise at the request of the Financial Investigator and the Crown. Generally the Court also has a wide power to order an Defendant to provide further information to help it carry out its functions. If the Defendant does not co-operate, the court can draw an inference.

What Must the Defence Show?

If the Defence disagree with any of the facts that the Prosecution rely on or the conclusions arrived at they must say why. Failing to object could be seen as acceptance of the Crown’s submissions.

The Defence must serve a formal reply to the prosecutors notice setting out the information requested supported by a statement of truth from the defendant.

Documents should be provided by the Defence to prove any of the points they rely on.   The court will not accept or vague or generalised assertions made by the Defence.

In some cases it may be possible for the Defence and Prosecution to agree on the amount owed and the quantum of the confiscation order.  However, the Court is not bound by any agreement made by the parties.

What Happens At The Final Hearing?

Both parties are entitled to file replies and counter replies to the statements of information they rely on. After the parties have filed the documents, evidence and additional skeleton arguments they rely on a final date will be set for the confiscation hearing.

At this hearing witnesses and experts can be called to give evidence. The Defence have every opportunity to challenge evidence against them and to call witnesses.   Both parties will present their closing arguments before a decision on the Confiscation Order is made.

DWP Announces That Maximum Administrative Penalty To Rise To £5000

DWP Announces That Maximum Administrative Penalty To Rise To £5000

DWP Announces That Maximum Administrative Penalty To Rise To £5000

Enforcement agencies investigating benefit fraud will now have more flexibility in deciding whether or not to prosecute those accused of benefit fraud.

The DWP has announced plans to more than double the maximum administrative penalty that can be offered as an alternative to prosecution for benefit fraud.

SFIS takes over Benefit Fraud Investigations

Continuing our series on thr latest Benefit Fraud Law updates we report on the work of the SFIS, the Government agency that has taken over conduct of all Benefit Fraud investigations.

Until last year, the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were responsible for investigating and prosecuting fraudulent tax credit claims credits while the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and local authorities are responsible for fraudulent social security benefit claim cases.

Under new Government proposals since 2015 all these cases are to be handled by a new agency, the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS).

The SFIS is a partnership between DWP Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC and local authorities. All three organisations will work closely together to deliver a service where a single investigation covers all welfare benefit fraud allowing SFIS to make more efficient use of its resources at its disposal.

It has taken quite a while for the SFIS to come to life. In 2011 it was agreed that there would be a first pilot. In 2013, 4 pilots were launched in order to find the best delivery model in Corby Borough Council, Glasgow City Council, London Borough of Hillingdon and Wrexham Council.

The objectives of the new SFIS are:

·      To ensure all fraudulent claims of social security and tax credits are be investigated according to a single set of guidelines and priorities.

·      To create a more coherent investigation service that is joined up, efficient and operates in a more consistent fair manner.

·      To conduct single investigations.

·      To fuse together expertise.

There are concerns as to whether SFIS would be able to achieve its main aim to address multiple frauds together in single investigations and prosecutions, especially if it is rolled out before the Universal Credit scheme is.

SFIS was rolled out from October 2014 through to March 2016. Prosecutions arising from SFIS will be conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.

For more information read our dedicated Benefits Fraud page.  

Client Guide to Benefit Fraud Interviews

Client Guide to Benefit Fraud Interviews

Our guide has been prepared  in response to concerns raised by many of our clients at advice they have been given not to attend this process - we would urge potential clients to be wary if they are given such instructions.

What Happens During An Investigation?

The first time you will be aware of the investigation is when the DWP, local authority or other agency write to you asking you to attend an interview.

How Will EU Exit Impact on White Collar Crime Enforcement - Global Investigations Review

Global Investigations Review is a magazine which focuses on white-collar crime. A feature in their October edition concerned the possible impact of the UK exiting the EU on white-collar crime enforcement, legislation and regulation.

"Many UK lawyers believe the effects of an exit would in fact be minimal. Roger Sahota in London is typical.

“While there may be great changes in Britain, the impact on white-collar crime would be negligible,” he said. “The UK has decided to repatriate crime and policing laws from the EU well before any referendum takes place.”

Sahota said the net effect of the UK’s block opt-out is that: “The UK will be largely free to determine, regulate and enforce its own white-collar crime laws, regardless of whether it decides to leave the EU or not.”