It was really interesting to work through this thread. I've also experienced being accused of benefit fraud and I'll run through the experience to date, it's still ongoing. I separated from my partner in late 2007, in late 2008 work had completely dried up and I went through the DWP interview on the phone that takes an eternity. The sole intention was to register the previous main residence where my ex and 2 x dependants still lived in order that they were in receipt of the housing benefit, not me. I did what I'd always done and that was deal with these financial matters and issues and still do to a certain extent. I was paying poll tax and residing within another local authority until 2010 when I moved out and rented the place out to look after my mother who had a stroke.
I could not get my name off the previous main residence as there were arrears (now cleared) and the lender would not entertain it due to the ex wife's income. I only had technical ownership. The idea of jointly and severally liable gets called into question. Take for an example a serial philanderer who buys a property with a series of lovers from county to county, technically he's liable for all these properties, bit extreme but I think you get the correlation.
I never claimed any benefits whatsoever such as job seekers etc etc. This was totally alien to me and I thought if I signed on I would fall into a spiral, so I worked through it and managed, by my fingernails, to hang on to everything and I am still dealing with creditors although there is now light at the end of the tunnel. The real issue here is that those that make these decisions and pursue are typically pen pushers with a chip on their shoulder.
There has to be some regulatory body or review body that has to see that the process currently is fundamentally unfair and unjust. Those typically being pursued have been disadvantaged and suffered especially through the recession. It reminds me of no more than a kangaroo court. I don't think it will ever happen but there needs to be an arbitrary process further to the local authority and prior to court where decisions can be made and if necessary any local authority decision overturned. The other problem is that the local authorities are now in bed with the revenue which gives them an added sense of self importance. Local authority cuts must also play a role. The figures I had back from the local authority were simply pulled from a hat, I asked them to justify the figures but oddly enough they've come back with nothing.
My case has now been ongoing for a year and all for the princely and disputed sum of @ £2k. I've even offered to pay a negotiated settlement figure without prejudice and/or admitting liability just to make them go away irrespective that I don't even owe the money. However they're not there to negotiate or reason and getting excited about these potential 'fraud' cases is their reason d'etre. I have showed them possession orders, arrears, CCJ's and asked them to apply common sense but it fell on deaf ears.
Regards solicitors from my experience of them over the past few years they'll tell you they can act for you then once you're sat down with them they'll tell you no more than you already know and all for £200 an hour. While I appreciate we can't be seen to be referring a solicitor or recommending it would be a good idea to perhaps put forward a few names of solicitors along with experience of same. If someone has had a genuinely good experience with an approachable and amenable legal entity, along with a degree of success, then it would be good to post to the board. I'll post back on how this ends up.