furlough fraud lawyer

What furlough fraud might involve and HMRCs approach to tackling it is

So as everyone knows by now that the scheme is coming to an end in September, furlough pays 80% of the wages of workers placed on leave since March up to a maximum of 2,500 pounds per month. And now we’re in the situation where thousands of businesses are under investigation for either falsely or mistakingly claiming. 

The potential scale of furlough fraud

The scale we’re looking at is in the region of 3.5 billion in payments that have been claimed. Fortunately, this is a huge amount of money. Since the beginning of September, HMRC told NPS, who sits on the public accounts committee, estimates that five to 10% of furlough cash has been wrongly awarded. That’s a huge amount of money. This five to 10% ranges from deliberate fraud all the way through to error. 

At the point that HMRC gave this evidence, about 8,000 calls have been received to their fraud telephone hotline. And they were looking into 27,000 high-risk cases where they believe there has been a serious error made in the amount employers had claimed this number has probably increased because we’re talking about months on from that.

It’s not really that surprising given the speed with which the scheme was rolled out and to provide a much-needed lifeline as quickly as possible when the lockdown began. That kind of sudden introduction made it very vulnerable to both mistakes and scams.

What types of fraud HMRC are looking at

There are four main areas of conduct that might amount to furlough fraud. So the first is creating ghost workers or claiming for staff who’ve actually left the business.

Secondly, claiming whilst individuals were actually working as normal on a part-time basis or as volunteers. Thirdly, there’s making backdated claims to include the time when individuals were actually working. Finally, there’s the example of asking staff to take a pay cut beyond 80% whilst still claiming the maximum furlough grant.

Research conducted by a legal rights lawyer estimates 36% of employees on furlough were under pressure from their employer to continue working for them. Out of 2000 furloughed employees interviewed, 27% were asked by employers to send and respond to emails. Employers asked 17% to make phone calls. 12% were pressured to attend their physical workplace, and 11% to volunteer their time. 

What HMRC’s approach to furlough fraud

There’s actually been an interesting statement made by HMRC permanent secretary. Who’s Jim Hauer. Their risk assessment stated they would not try to find employees who have made legitimate mistakes in compiling their claims because this is obviously something new that everybody had to get to grips with within a challenging time.

Employees are expected to check their claims and repay any excess amounts. What they will be focusing on is tackling abuse. They’re not looking at mistakes; they are going to be focusing on fraud. And in that vein, HMRC has promised to crack down, and we have already seen some pretty high profile arrests.

High profile furlough fraud arrests

In July, for an amount of just under half a million pounds, furlough fraud, there was an arrest, and in September, two London-based directors were arrested for 70,000 pounds worth of furlough fraud. So HMRC is already taking action. If you are found guilty of making fraudulent applications, the individuals involved can face tough criminal sanctions, including a fine and a potential criminal custodial sentence.

Now, if you’re looking at an offence under the fraud act, that criminal penalty term could be up to 10 years. So a very long term there. HMRC has information on inspection powers meaning that they can perform spot checks and compel information disclosure. And also another comment made by Jim Hara is that HMRC will be writing to employers to give them the chance to correct a mistake and repay excess amounts before taking more drastic action.

Whilst HMRC can’t get involved in any relationships between employers and employees; they can and will reclaim any grants that the employer is not entitled to. Including, for example, grants that haven’t been passed on in wages to employees.

 

Furlough fraud whistleblowing

Furlough fraud is becoming more prominent, especially as flexible failing comes in, where employers are allowed to bring employees back for some hours. If your employer is claiming money back from HMRC and asking you to work, it amounts to fraud. So what do you do as an employee in this situation? Because clearly you don’t want to upset your employer, but you also don’t want to facilitate fraud.

If you’re an employee

What you need to be doing, first of all, is refusing to work whilst on furlough and making sure that’s really clear in writing, by putting it in writing. It is also recommended you provide enough information about the request to work and state that you believe it is a breach of a legal obligation and could amount to criminal conduct.

If you do that, what that then means is you’re protected potentially under the whistleblowing legislation because you’re effectively blowing the whistle about criminal activity. Fraud is a criminal event. So what that means for you is that if your employer then decides to dismiss you, demote you or not pay you as a result of that, or you suffer any detriment because you’ve complained about the fact that they’re acting illegally, you are then protected and you can bring a claim for injury to feelings and loss of finance financial losses.

If you’re an employer accused of furlough fraud

As shown above, it is quite clear what furlough fraud is. HMRC are going to take a tough stance on furlough fraud as it has cost hundreds of billions. Any chance they get to take back some of that money and punish people who unlawfully took furlough fraud payments they will take. Should you be accused of furlough fraud there are important steps you should take. Firstly, calling us and explaining your circumstances. Having experienced lawyers who have worked on fraud cases should be your first priority.

It is important to not challenge your employees as this could exacerbate the situation and further breakdown the relationship. Gather any evidence, such as emails sent, letters sent requesting people to work so that we can view them. We are experienced lawyers and trusted by thousands each year so call us immediately if facing furlough fraud charges.

speed awareness courses scotland

Lack of speed awareness courses in Scotland

Courses available throughout the UK but not Scotland

Despite ministers accepting a need for speed awareness courses, there is still a lack of speed awareness courses in Scotland. Speed awareness courses are widely available throughout the rest of the UK, but for some reason, they’re not available to motorists here in Scotland. So if you have the misfortune to be pulled over for low-level speeding, ae.g.nd just over the 30 mph limit or just over the 70 mph limits you don’t have an option of a speed awareness course. If you’re stopped for that sort of speed down in England, you’ll be asked if you want to go in a speed awareness course. If you choose to pay for that course, then you will not have penalty points endorsed on your license in Scotland.

Unfortunately, we do not have that available to us. Some questions have been asked recently in the Scottish parliament in connection with that. We would like to see speed awareness courses available throughout Scotland. There’s no real reason why they’re not available and it is something that could be easily implemented.

The companies who provide these courses done in England could easily have their systems replicated up here. It’s very easy for the whole system to be rolled out and very quick. And I would suggest that it’s something that could be available by the end of the year, but it does need some political will.

Just over the border and you can get no points

Ironically, you could actually be on the same road and just crossing over the border. On one side you get dealt with no penalty points and on this side, you receive three penalty points. As we know, penalty points can mean that you can be totted up and disqualified from driving.

Awareness courses are not just to avoid points. They reduce people’s bad driving as they are taught correct driving standards and allow the people to address the whole issue of just how good a driver they are. These courses make them aware of the issues of speed and the dangers that are involved and they pay for themselves so it costs nothing to the government.

Call specialist road traffic lawyers today

Until this is an option here in Scotland, contact a specialist road traffic lawyer today. We can take on your case, and explain likely outcomes., with initial consultations being completely free of charge.

pulled over by the police, stopped by the police

What to do if the police stop you

Don’t be aggressive or rude.

What do you do if the police have pulled you over in relation to speeding, dangerous driving, careless driving? What you don’t do is get rude and aggressive with the police officers. If you feel you’ve been wrongly accused of something, then what you need to do is start preparing your case really from the moment they stop you.

So mistake number one would be becoming rude and argumentative with the police officers. The first thing that sets them on edge and makes sure that they’re going to remember who you are is if you are rude or aggressive. They will likely remember everything about the incident to recall very clearly every little detail when they come to court. 

Cooperate fully

Cooperate fully with the police officers. They’re perfectly entitled to ask you your name, address, mot, and insurance. Nowadays, they tend not to bother with the mot and insurance because they’ve usually done a DVLA computer check even before they’ve stopped you. So they’re aware of your insurance position, or they’ve got a very good idea of it.

They’ve got a lot of information even before they stop you. So be aware of that. Cooperate, give details, and cooperate fully with them on that. Don’t start demanding calibration certificates and certificates of authenticity and certificates of accuracy concerning measurements. Your time will come, and you can deal with that at a trial. At this stage, the police officers may well show you a speed gun or show you a video in their car.

Note down equipment used.

What you should do is make a note of what equipment is being used. So have a look at the equipment. The car, if you see handheld devices that are Unipar devices provider. So please have a look at those things, look out for those words or labels and take a note of them at the time.

Personal video evidence

Another thing that I would suggest you do is video evidence. Everybody has smartphones nowadays, so use them. Don’t do this right into the face of a police officer. There’s nothing more obstructive or rude than somebody wielding a camera when you’re actually trying to do your job. Polite and discrete use of your smartphone or a video camera to video the circumstances surrounding the offence is appropriate.

Get their car in the video too. It’ll have the registration number. We’ll identify the time, the place and the circumstances from that because the police will later give evidence about it. Check the weather conditions such as temperature and rain. That will tell us whether there are icy conditions or whether it’s better than that. Video the actual road conditions too. Video the police officers on the roadway. So we can see their position with your video, the general road conditions, which will just allow us to see the traffic flow and the level of traffic flow when you’ve been stopped.

All of that can be really important, particularly in dangerous driving or careless driving. As I say, be discreet with what you’re doing. You are perfectly entitled to video; you’re entitled to video even the process of discussing with the police officers what’s happening, but don’t get into an argument about that whole situation. If they’re demanding that you stop, and if they do video activity, just tell them that you would like to refer to that at a later stage. So that’s why you’re videoing. And keep it polite, simple, and straight forward.

Don’t delay; call a road traffic lawyer.

Don’t wait for the case papers to come in. Don’t wait for a citation to arrive at your door; speak to a specialist lawyer as soon as you can sit down with him or her and find out if there’s anything else required to be obtained at that time. Sometimes, in particular with dangerous driving or careless driving cases, it’s worth having your case examined by an expert.

Sometimes it’s worth having your vehicle examined for damage and for an indication of what the damage was. And that’s the time to preserve that type of evidence. So speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. They’ll give you some advice. It’s usually free in the early stages, so it’s not going to cost you anything.

mistakes in drink driving cases

Mistakes made in drink driving cases

Assuming you will be convicted

The biggest mistake is to assume that because you’ve been charged with drink driving, that you will be convicted of drunk driving and therefore lose your driving licence. The consequences of going to court in relation to this type of charge are very serious. Drink driving cases are not over before they start.

So it’s a matter where you should speak to a lawyer at the earliest opportunity. As soon as you’ve been processed by the police, you should be contacting a lawyer. Evidence can be preserved and it can make a massive difference in how your case is dealt with at the end of the day. 

We have dealt with many types of cases depending on how the police deal with the evidence, what they do in relation to your case and the procedures that are involved in your case. Also taking into account whether they’re fair to you or not. You’ll really only know that if you speak to a lawyer who has experience in this area and can tell you just exactly what weight the court will bring to the evidence of how your case has been dealt with.

So there needs to be something fairly substantial for us to be able to win your case. But please do not assume that your case is simply a loser because you’ve been charged. Often it’s the case that we can mitigate the circumstances and explain the full background to the court. It’s not very often, that people openly accept that they’re involved in drunk driving. There’s usually some background there. So we always ask some probing questions and find out what the background is because. Often that’s something that the court really required to know.

Thinking the police always get it right

There are many ways the police can get something wrong in relation to drink driving. Maybe they measured your alcohol levels incorrectly. Maybe the sample was not taken in the correct manner. You could have had something in your mouth, such as chewing gum, tobacco etc. Perhaps you were on a special diet or have diabetes, asthma, other relevant medical condition. 

The idea we’re trying to give you is that there are many opportunities that could mean you are not convicted. We have to be allowed to analyse the evidence which can only occur if you contact us and contest the charge. 

Trying to explain that the police lied

This will very rarely work out for you. All you really need to do is show how the officer might simply be mistaken. We can check the case procedures thoroughly and ensure that all the relevant documents have been lodged to enable you to cross-examine whether the procedures were carried out appropriately. A Sheriff does not want to believe that a police officer is willing to lie to catch one person out for a road offence when they would be risking their careers. So it’s much more prudent to go for the angle that the police officer(s) are mistaken.

Lawyers for drink driving cases

So get in touch with us. We’re more than happy to speak to you in the first instance without a fee. Speak to one of our lawyers who will analyse your case. We’ll tell you the facts and we’ll tell you exactly what the position is and whether there’s any real worth in going to trial in relation to your case. Bear in mind that the devices that are used nowadays, the Intoximeter devices are approved devices that bring them a special status, which means that the court trusts the reading that comes from that device. Remember drink driving cases are worth examining so call asap.

pretending your partner was driving

Pretending your partner was driving

Pretending your partner was driving

If you’ve been flashed by a camera, then you may receive what’s called a notice of intended penalty or notice of intended prosecution through the door. And it asks you to name who was the driver of the vehicle. We get a lot of questions about this type of situation because people stress the issue of whether they’re going to take the points or whether they’re going to allow their partner or someone else who drives the vehicle to take the points and therefore lie. Pretending your partner was driving is a serious offence.

Perverting the course of justice

This is essentially an attempt to pervert the course of justice. What I want to do is to give you a warning, to not do that! It’s incredibly serious. And it has ended up in people who are first-time offenders, receiving custodial sentences in England. In particular, there have been cases where a policeman was caught providing false details of who was driving. He was given a custodial sentence. A nurse on another occasion received a custodial sentence. The famous case of former Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne also shows the severity of lying.

So don’t be tempted by the idea that you might have heard down the pub or the local golf club that you should just put your partner’s name down and she can take the points for that case. Be aware that there’s photographic evidence.

Road traffic lawyers

Photographic evidence in connection with these cases. And it will certainly be frowned upon and lead to a further charge if you were to attempt to mislead the police. If you need advice in relation to completing the notice of intended prosecution, give us a phone and tell us about the circumstances of your particular case and the points that are on your licence already. Do not get caught up in pretending your partner was driving. Face a prosecution head-on and with the truth and you have a far greater chance of succeeding. 

failing to provide a breath sample

Failing to provide a breath sample

Failing to provide a breath sample

Failing to provide a breath sample is one of those charges that is a bit unfair on the motorist. When you’ve been pulled over by the police and you know that you haven’t been drinking and you know that you can prove that, and you have evidence of that it can be very frustrating when police officers have stopped you because they suspect you’ve been drink driving.

You think, well, why should I give a breath sample? Or at least can I speak to a lawyer and find out what my rights are? Unfortunately, you’re not entitled to speak to a lawyer at that stage. If the officer wants a sample, then it’s their duty to try to attain that as soon as possible. So the officer will ask you for the sample.

A police officer is not required to explain to you why they suspect you’ve been drink driving. They simply have to have that reasonable suspicion. They then take the sample from you. If you fail to give the sample, if you refuse on point of principle or for whatever reason, you’ll be charged with failing to provide a breath sample.

Failing to provide a sample ban

That’s a serious charge because it generally attracts an 18-month disqualification. Although the minimum is 12 months in Scotland. Sheriffs in general, tend to air on the higher side, perhaps thinking that it will dissuade others from who have been drinking. And failing to provide it would dissuade them from thinking this is a nice, convenient, easy way to get out of a 12-month burn eye to try to avoid justice.

An 18-month ban tends to be a starting figure for Sheriffs because they see it as a disincentive to others. It sends a message that if you fail to provide a sample, then you can expect a higher bond. If you actually had given a sample and even prove positive it is better for you in the long run.

Failure to provide a sample lawyer

Don’t ask for a lawyer straight away and don’t insist upon such matters, because all that will happen is you will be charged with a failure to provide a breath sample. And at the end of the day, you could be looking at a very, lengthy ban and the type of conviction on your record that nobody really wants to have.

If you’ve been charged in relation to failing to provide, please contact us. A lawyer will give you some more information about your own case. It’s totally free to call. We’re not looking for instructions at this stage. We simply want to give you some advice about your own case, and we’re quite happy to do that on a no-obligation basis. So contact us today. 

The not proven verdict in Scotland

What is the not proven verdict in Scotland?

You are probably familiar with the verdicts guilty and not guilty but have you heard of ‘not proven’? Scottish jury trials have some unique features such as a 15 person jury, simple majority decision-making and the ‘not proven’ verdict. Here we look at what the verdicts mean and how they differ.

‘Not proven’ was originally an experiment by the Scottish system where juries delivered findings on individual factual allegations rather than general verdicts as they did previously, and as they do today.  

When the experiment was abandoned, ‘not proven’ started to be used as a general verdict.

Scottish law is based on the understanding that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore the onus is on the Crown to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.

The verdicts available on a majority basis are:

Guilty: The jurors believe the accused is guilty of the crime beyond reasonable doubt

Not Guilty:  The jurors believe the accused is innocent or the case against them was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Not Proven:  A ‘not proven’ verdict is not defined in statute or case law, and standard text on Scottish criminal procedure states that juries should not be told anything about its meaning.

Therefore, in a jury trial, a defence team faces three potential verdicts, two of which will mean a full acquittal for their client.

The Not Proven and Not Guilty Debate

These two verdicts have the same impact as they are both acquittals. There are no legal consequences for the accused if they receive a not proven verdict. If the accused receives a not proven verdict, it is the same for them as not guilty; the Crown has not proved their guilt.

There is a great deal of controversy and discussion in Scotland about the availability of a not proven verdict. Research shows that jurors may think of ‘not proven’ as a halfway house between guilty and not guilty.

The same research suggests that a not proven verdict can be a way for a jury to say ‘not sure’ without understanding that it means acquittal and that the case cannot be tried again unless there is new evidence under the double jeopardy law.

Some jurors, who participated in the mock-trials set up to research jurors’ understanding of ‘not proven’, assumed that a not proven verdict lies on the accused’s record. Thus they are still punished without a guilty verdict. This is completely untrue.

The not proven verdict is used disproportionately in rape cases

In 2016/2017 nearly 30% of acquittals were not proven verdicts compared with 17% for all crimes and offences.

This may reflect a generally lower conviction rate than for other crimes or, as some argue, reflects personal feelings around the conduct of a rape victim and represents the ‘halfway house’ we referred to earlier.

Supporters for the not proven verdict insist there should be a way for jurors to express uncertainty where they are not persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt.

No doubt the debate will continue for some time as the Scottish government considers the issue but for now, whatever the intentions of a jury who choose a not proven verdict, for the accused it means they are not guilty in the eyes of the law.

If you are questioned or arrested in connection to any crime, you need to speak to a criminal law expert as soon as possible. You can contact us 24 hours a day to quickly establish the facts of the case against you.

 

Scottish criminal law vs English criminal law

England and Scotland might share the same island, but they maintain separate judicial systems derived from their independent histories. Scottish law is maintained as separate, through the 1707 Act of Union. Criminal defence solicitors need to be aware of the differences in laws between Scotland and England because it can affect a case.

English criminal law is considered part of public law – a relationship between the individual and the state, which defines acceptable codes of conduct within society.

Scottish criminal law is a hybrid common law system, sourced from the many cultural groups in its history.

As criminal law solicitors, we often encounter clients who don’t understand what differentiates these two judicial systems. Here are some legal distinctions to be mindful of.

Suspect Interviews

Both England and Scotland permit voluntary and compulsory criminal interviews. It is a good idea to have legal aid or criminal defence solicitor present for any interview.

Scottish criminal law maintains a right to remain silent, without guilt being inferred.

In England, the information provided in compulsory interviews cannot be used against the interviewee. However, there is no right to silence. Negative inferences can be drawn; an interviewee fails to reveal information or refuses to answer a question; then while in court, answers those questions or brings up information to rely on it.

Witness Statements

English criminal law permits voluntary, signed witness statements to be used as evidence in court.

Scottish criminal law treats these as having little value, and they have a more limited place. They can be used in court when the witness cannot physically be there or to show proof of earlier statements should the witness change their testimony.

However, in serious Scottish criminal law cases, witnesses can be compelled to give a “precognition” statement to assist the investigation. The witness does not retain the right to have a criminal defence solicitor present, so these statements cannot be used in court.

Evidence and Corroboration

Scotland has higher requirements for evidence than England.

English criminal law permits conviction from a single source of evidence. Scottish criminal law requires corroboration from more than one source.

This means that in Scotland, each prime fact of the case (that the crime was committed and that it was done so by the accused) must be supported by at least two, different, independent evidence sources.

This holds true, even if the accused confesses. Confessions alone are not enough to convict under Scottish criminal law. Another piece of evidence must corroborate them.

Circumstantial evidence can be used as corroborating evidence, in which case a criminal defence solicitor should be used.

Formal Caution Vs Warnings

England permits the issuance of formal cautions, as an alternative to prosecution of minor crimes. This is a written warning given by police and requires admittance of guilt. Should the person choose not to admit guilt, they are then subject to criminal prosecution.

English formal cautions can be simple or conditional. When conditional, the offender must satisfy specific conditions.

These cautions are not convictions but do become part of the criminal record.

Scottish police will issue verbal or written warnings for minor offences. They can also attach penalties which must be paid or will result in prosecution. These warnings do not become part of a criminal record.

Legal aid or criminal law solicitors should be consulted in these cases since prosecution or admittance of guilt can have long-lasting consequences.

Bringing Charges

Charges brought in Scotland must include all the points of the offence committed. Criminal defence solicitors can then challenge these details during preliminary case stages.

In England, charges are briefer, with the case summary being done separately.

Juries

Scottish jury trials do not require unanimous verdicts. Criminal trial juries consist of 12-15 people. Conviction is determined by majority vote, with eight being the deciding number. Hung juries are not permitted. Scottish verdicts are either guilty (convicted), not guilty (acquitted), or not proven (an acquittal).

Verdicts

Scottish law permits three verdict options: “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “not proven”. The “not proven” verdict is an acquittal that acknowledges doubt of the accused’s innocence. Please consult a solicitor near you, whenever interacting with the judicial system. Even simple cases, such as warnings, can result in life-altering consequences.

Our Criminal defence solicitors

At Graham Walker Solicitors our criminal law solicitors are extremely knowledgable in the differences between English Law and Scottish Law. If you need representation, contact us today, we are available 24/7, a legal aid solicitor will answer your call.

 

Is Cannabis legal in Scotland?

The debate surrounding the possible legalisation of cannabis is growing (pardon the pun).

Judging by the evidence and data collected from all over the world regarding the potential medical benefits and not to mention the economic benefit that some countries have recorded, it would seem that opinion is tending to lean in favour of cannabis legalisation

A growing number of politicians and celebrities are coming out in favour of legalisation of cannabis. Many countries are now relaxing their strict drug laws as public opinion shifts.

However, as specialist Scottish drug solicitors here to advise you 24/7/365 we are primarily concerned with the drug laws of Scotland.

The law concerning cannabis is common throughout the UK and is regulated by The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

CANNABIS IS ILLEGAL THROUGHOUT THE UK

Across the UK, there are three classes of illicit substances. Class A, B and C. Cannabis is a Class B category in Scotland, alongside other substances such as speed, ketamine, and some versions of codeine which all also sit in the Class B category.

If you are charged with possession or possession with intent to supply or being concerned in the supply of Cannabis or cultivation of cannabis, then do not delay in contacting our specialist team of cannabis lawyers. We have a great wealth of experience in drug cases in Scotland and will help you achieve the best possible result in your case.

Cannabis is Scotland’s most widely used illegal drug. Polls have shown that around 47% of people living in Scotland supported cannabis legalization, 37% were against legalization and the remaining 17% were uncertain.

It would seem by the crime recording figures that recently the Police have a more relaxed approach to cannabis in Scotland with around five hundred people a month found to be in possession of cannabis and who face no consequences. Where quantities are larger and other factors come into play and supply is suspected, then prosecution is more likely.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Scotland?

Medicinal marijuana was made legal in November 2018.

The legalization occurred in November 2018 after several high profile cases involving children with medical issues.

Only in exceptional circumstances will cannabis be prescribed by doctors in Scotland and stating that you take cannabis for medical reasons without a prescription will not be a defence.

Is CBD Legal in Scotland?

CBD is a compound found within cannabis plants (Cannabidiol), and due to the low quantity of THC in it, it is legal in Scotland provided it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved. If you’re in Scotland, you can buy CBD products provided the level of THC is below 0.2 per cent.