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The overwhelming majority of people claiming welfare benefits in
Medway are honest, law-abiding citizens. This policy is only
directed towards the small minority who commit benefit fraud and by
- steal from the taxpayer;
- deny others much-needed resources; and
- tarnish the welfare system.
The council seeks to confront benefit fraud with a combination
Use this form on the Department for Work and Pensions website to
report benefit fraud.
The best way of fighting benefit fraud is to prevent it
happening in the first place. All claims for benefit will be
verified thoroughly, therefore, in line with performance standards
and guidance issued by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The single biggest deterrent of benefit fraud is the fear of
getting caught, so the council will use all legitimate means
available to detect and expose benefit fraudsters. This includes
sharing data with other enforcement agencies, surveillance and the
naming and shaming of those convicted.
The council will search for fraud proactively in whatever areas
it has concern, including landlords, agents and employers. It will
also investigate allegations of benefit fraud. Investigators will
seek evidence to ensure that the correct amount of benefit has been
paid to the correct person for the correct period and if
appropriate, will take legal action against offenders.
Those who steal from the taxpayer should be punished.
Nevertheless, as a means of encouraging individuals to take
responsibility for their actions and lives, the council undertakes
not to prosecute if a person comes clean about their true
circumstances, either when they tell the council themselves or if
the verification process shows they have been overpaid. Any
overpayment of benefit will be recovered vigorously, however.
The decision as to whether the council will take action will
depend upon two tests that will be applied to each individual on a
case-by-case basis, namely the evidential test and the public
The evidential test
For a sanction to proceed, there must be sufficient evidence to
provide a realistic prospect of a conviction for each offence
brought, which means that a jury or bench of magistrates, properly
directed in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to
The public interest test
The council accepts the principle of public interest as given in
this statement by Lord Shawcross in 1951, which has been adopted by
the English legal system since: "It has never been the rule in
this country; I hope it never will be, that suspected criminals
must automatically be the subject of prosecution." The council
has at its disposal three forms of sanction:
- formal caution; and
- administrative penalty.
The council will consider prosecution if the following factors
- if the accused is convicted, the court is likely to impose a
sentence demonstrating that it considers the matter significant
enough for it to deal with;
- taking into account other mitigation, the sum involved is of an
amount that, if not prosecuted, confidence of the general public in
Medway Council could be undermined;
- the period of the offence is prolonged;
- the individual is in a position of trust - this includes any
- there is evidence that the offence was premeditated and
- there is evidence that there was collusion between two or more
- the individual has a previous conviction for fraud or
- the offence would have continued if the accused had not been
- the offence is widespread in the area.
Mitigation against prosecution will include:
- the offence was committed more in foolishness and misjudgment
than out of dishonesty;
- the individual has made a genuine and significant effort to
repay the overpayment, although people should not avoid prosecution
solely by repayment;
- the individual will suffer significant physical and or mental
harm if prosecuted;
- the individual has demonstrated genuine remorse and
acknowledged what they did was wrong.
When there is sufficient evidence to prosecute but the council
considers that it is not in the public interest to prosecute, it
will consider a formal caution. For this to be offered, the
individual must demonstrate remorse and acknowledge that what they
did was wrong. If the council refuses a formal caution, it does not
automatically mean the individual will be prosecuted but not to
prosecute would be rare and supported with good justification.
The council will consider an administrative penalty having taken
the following factors into account:
- the administrative penalty will not increase the
- a prosecution or formal caution would not be in the public
interest or cause unfair punishment to the individual, for example
the loss of employment;
- the individual has the means to pay the administrative
penalty in one single payment at the time of the
administrative penalty interview: should the individual choose to
withdraw from the agreement within 28 days, the money will be
repaid but a prosecution must follow;
- the individual has repaid the overpayment in full (but
individuals should not avoid prosecution solely by repayment).
The council maintains that criminals should not profit from
their crimes. It will use every means at its disposal, therefore,
to recover all overpayments considered to be fraudulent. Redress is
not to be seen as an additional activity to sanction but as an
integral part of tackling benefit fraud. In cases where an
investigation has taken place but no sanction has followed, Medway
Council will still seek to recover any overpayment of benefit that
has occurred by civil means.
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