AN American mum who claims to be a British government agent is fighting extradition to the US from a Scots jail over an alleged kidnapping plot. Valerie Hayes, 38, faces charges of conspiring to sn…
Benefit fraud cases are on the rise
A conviction for benefit fraud can have serious and far-reaching implications for your life. Any number of people can find themselves in need of legal advice from a criminal solicitor on how to defend against an allegation, and a poor defence can be crippling.
That’s why Berlow Rahman Solicitors LLP are here to help. We are specialist benefit fraud solicitors.
Benefit fraud in the West of Scotland
One recent case in the Glasgow Sheriff Court found social worker Deborah Carmichael, 47, guilty of claiming over £67,000 of benefits due to a number of mental and physical illnesses. Her crime was “knowingly failing to give prompt notification” to the DWP when her condition improved. She was jailed for 16 months in a case that was likely to have serious implications for her professional life.
Margaret Weir, 48, of Hamilton was also found guilty of illegally claiming benefits in a recent case. She received £104,000 of income support and £28,572 of housing benefit between 2005 to 2015 before it was discovered she was receiving additional income from her ex-husband. She was sentenced to a 12-month community payback order, with supervision and 200 hours of unpaid work.
Sentences for benefit fraud
There have been cases where the courts have taken a softer stance. Sharon Stobbart, 38, was recently up before an Airdrie court for claiming almost £20,000 in benefits. She had married and was living with her husband, who had his own income without informing the authorities, the court heard.
In her case, her defence lawyer pleaded that Stobbart’s infant daughter should be considered when looking to her sentence. This was successful, and she was instead given a community payback order and put on tag. As you can see, the value of a good criminal lawyer in these cases cannot be underestimated.
What is benefit fraud?
The law in Scotland refers to the rules laid out in Section 111A(1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. This says that a person may be accused of benefit fraud if they:
• Have not reported a change in their circumstances (where it needs to be reported)
• When that person knows they should report the change
• When that change would affect their entitlement to benefit payments
• When that person doesn’t report the change quickly for dishonest reasons
Benefit fraud sentences in Scotland
As you can see from the above cases, there are a wide variety of sentences available to judges. If there are multiple people involved in a ring that seeks to defraud the government, then a jail sentence of more than two years is “inevitable.” In single cases where the overpayment is less than £20,000 then a jail sentence of fewer than 12 months might be appropriate. Community service orders can be used in cases where the financial gain is less than £5,000. Jail sentences are not advised (but are possible) for cases between £5,000 and £20,000.
Representation at DWP Interviews under caution
We attend DWP offices In Glasgow, Edinburgh and Kilmarnock regularly.
Can I get legal aid?
Berlow Rahman Solicitors LLP legal services cover a large area of the west of Scotland, including Glasgow, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Coatbridge, Airdrie, Hamilton and Motherwell. The current Scottish legal aid rules mean fees and costs for court cases may be covered by the government and we can help provide all the necessary information. You may need to provide your wage slips or bank statements to support this application.
We excel in negotiating with the prosecution lawyers in bringing the amount of the fraud down in order to avoid a jail sentence. We recommend that you get on the front foot with the matter and engage with the prosecuting authorities.
Being accused of benefit fraud can be a scary and confusing time. The best thing to do is get some proper legal advice and understand what’s going on. Berlow Rahman Solicitors LLP are ready to take your call.
Speak to us now.
Support and information for witnesses of criminal, civil and Children’s Hearing court cases in Scotland.
Berlow Rahman Solicitors LLP (previously known as JR Rahman Solicitors) have been nominated as the up and coming young lawyer of the year 2008/2009, and Top 100 businesses in the Barclay Trading Places Award 2009.
What is a citation?
A citation is a formal document that is used to serve a legal document, and will usually inform the person who is cited to attend court, either as a witness or as an accused.
If you have you received a citation to attend court as a witness, this will either be from the procurator fiscal or the defence lawyers for the accused. (Citations are also used in civil matters, and are dealt with elsewhere on this website). If you have been cited as a witness it will usually be to attend court on a stated date and time to give evidence at a trial. You must attend, and if there is any reason you are unable to attend you should contact whoever cited you, which will either be the procurator fiscal or the defence solicitors. A citation can be received by post, delivered by the police or sheriff officers.
Failure to attend court may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
A citation which contains a further document called a Complaint is served on a person who is required to court to answer criminal charges. This will come from the Procurator Fiscal’s Office with a date and time when you are required to answer the charge or charges made against you.
The citation will tell you what court to appear at, the date and time of the hearing, known as a Pleading Diet. The Complaint will provide details of the charge and a brief summary of the alleged incident. You must answer the charge or charges by the date noted on the citation. This can be done by completing and returning the attached papers or by attending court on the date stated. As these matters are rarely straight forward, it will usually be in your interest to instruct a solicitor. We are experienced in all areas of criminal law and can be contacted on any of the numbers stated on this website for a free initial consultation.
Attending Court at a Pleading Diet
When the case calls in court for the first time there are three options:
- Plead Not Guilty
- Plead Guilty
- Continue the case without plea for further enquiries
Normally if you wish to plead Not Guilty or have the case continued for further enquiry there will be no requirement to attend personally. One of our solicitors can attend.
Should you wish to plead Guilty is likely you will require to attend court. In certain cases involving minor criminal charges, these can be dealt with by letter or by one of our solicitors attending court and pleading guilty on your behalf and putting forward an explanation for the offence.
What happens when people are released from custody
Most people who are arrested will be released from custody quickly. Depending on the nature of the crime, if the police know who they are, where they live and consider that they will not present a risk, they may be released once they have had their photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples taken.
The police will then prepare a report about the crime to the Procurator Fiscal (PF). The Procurator Fiscal (sometimes called the Fiscal) is responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland. If the suspect is under 16, the police will usually refer the young person to the Children’s Reporter to consider the case and decide what action to take.
Depending on the nature of the crime, and if the police think it is important that the case is heard at court quickly, the person may be released on an Undertaking. This means they will promise to attend court when told to (usually within two or three weeks). They must also agree to certain conditions they must not commit any further crimes, and must not interfere with witnesses. This is often called being bailed from the police station, but another term for this is “liberation” or “liberation on undertaking”.
Once the person has been released, the police will send a report to the Procurator Fiscal.
Tell the police everything you know about the case and the accused
In law, someone is innocent until they are proven guilty, and so they should not be kept in police custody unless there are good reasons for doing so. The police decide whether to keep the accused in custody or to release them. That officer must know as much as possible about the case and the person. So, if you think you know something that may be of relevance and might help them decide, you should let the police know immediately.
Why someone may not be released
Depending on the crime, or if the police think the person may commit more crimes, or will be a risk to an individual, or to the public, they may be held in custody until the next court day (or over the weekend, if they were arrested on a Friday). If so, the police will prepare a custody report for the Procurator Fiscal (PF) for the next day. When the accused appears in court they are entitled to apply for bail and, unless the Fiscal can argue that there are strong reasons why the person should not be released, they will be given bail (released) until the trial. Reasons why someone may not get bail include a serious chance that the accused will commit more crimes, abscond, or is a danger to witnesses, or other members of the public.
What to do if you are worried about the accused being released
If the Procurator Fiscal knows about any concerns you have, they may be able to ask the court for some special conditions for bail. Tell the police officer you are dealing with or the Fiscal or your lawyer about any concerns as soon as possible. If the Fiscal does not know of your concerns, they can’t tell the court.
Suspects released on bail, will be told not to interfere with you, or any other witnesses, in any way. They must not behave in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress to you or any other witness. Sometimes (special) conditions will be attached to their bail. For instance, the accused could be told that they are not allowed to enter a certain shop, or go to a particular place. If the person does approach or bother you, you must tell the police straight away as they can arrest the person if they are breaking their conditions of bail.
CONTENTIOUS proposals to make defendants contribute in advance to their legal aid costs have been put on hold following a threat by lawyers to drop clients who fail to pay up front.
New legislation, aimed at cutting the legal aid bill, would see defendants paying lawyers directly, instead of legal firms collecting money from the state.
The move, which was due to come into effect later this year, has been widely opposed by lawyers who fear losing out financially if clients refuse to contribute before their case is due to be heard.
Guidance from the Law Society of Scotland, published in The Scotsman last month, advised lawyers not to appear in court on behalf of clients unless they had paid in advance, raising the prospect of hundreds of defendants being left to represent themselves and potentially opening up the Scottish court system to countless miscarriage of justice claims.
Last night, the Scottish Government said a revised timetable for introducing client contributions would be announced shortly.
“Legislation to introduce contributions for criminal legal aid was passed by parliament last year as part of a programme of reforms in Scotland to reduce spending while continuing to protect the range of cases eligible for legal aid,” a spokesman said.
“Following the changes to criminal work guidance recently announced by the Law Society, we have delayed the implementation of contributions, to ensure that these changes are taken into account.”
A series of public roadshows designed to explain the changes has also been postponed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Slab), it was confirmed yesterday.