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Interview under caution!!!!! Some advice please!!!!


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Hi Guys new here and would appreciate any advice anyone can give.

This morning I received an horrible letter from my local council asking me to attend an interview under caution. It says they suspect they have grounds for criminal prosecution because I have failed to tell them about changes in my income!!!! Im really upset and very scared by this letter.

I left my job last Feb due to childcare being a complete nightmare and my quest continues for a job that is around school hours. I am not claiming job seekers and my husband works full time but still classed as a low income, he earns £12,000 per year. we get working tax credit and child tax credit then last March I decided to see if we could get help with council tax. I applied giving all bank statements, my husbands pay slips and all other info they wanted. They eventually wrote back and said we where entitled and the we have been getting help with council tax since last April.

About November last year I got a form from the council tax department asking me to fill it in, they where just checking everybodys information was correct. I again gave the correct details, my husbands wage, benefits we get and money we have including all the proof they wanted.

Not heard anything until today when this lovely letter dropped on the door mat. I just dont understand whats happening. My husbands income as not changed during the year nor as anything.

Why are they interviewing me, im really scared!!! got to wait 3 weeks now until the interview, dont know what to do. I HONESTLY have done nothing wrong and all the info ive ever given them is correct. Anybody got any ideas???????

Thanks in advance.

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Hi lizzy:

Look, it MAY NOT feel like it, but if everything you've posted here is true, and you can prove it, you have nothing to fear. I have no reason to doubt you, but they may, through an error, or an "informant" think they have reason to doubt your info.

 

The single place where many people trip up is "savings". If you have anything over £6,000 you have to tell them becuaes they use a forula to turn that into income.

 

It's easy to say, but try not to worry. And, if the anxiety gets to great, you CAN take the bull by the horns and call the benefits team and ask them to tell you what details THEY hold about your income.

 

My experience of these things is that THEy do make mistakes. I have, in the past five years, won compensation from our lcoal council for ignoring me when I've told them about changes, and got £800 underpaid benefit l;ast year because THEY failed to reassess me on time.

 

TAKE ACRE

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Thankyou for your reply. I assure you everything I said is 100% true which is why I'm so baffled by this. I do not see where there reason is to feel the need to interview me. Nor can I see anybody reporting me! I've not done anything to be reported for!!!!!!!! No point in trying not to worry because I'm just beside myself!!! The letter is just awful, I feel like a criminal and I've done nothing wrong. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi.

 

My 2nd thread on here so i'll just do a quick update on my story.

 

I was invited in January to attend a IUC, got a letter completly out the blue from my local council saying they suspected me of benefit fraud!

I claimed council tax benefit in April 2010 after loosing my job. In Nov I received a renewal form from the council asking for details and for my husbands wage slips etc so they could make sure our claim was correct. In June 2010 our working tax credits had gone up but it never dawned on me that I should let the council know. I filled in the renewal forms with all the correct information on it and sent it off never thinking for a second that anything was wrong.

Didnt hear anything else until the lovely letter dropped on the door mat in January. I totally freaked out and was a nervous wreck! i could'nt think why they thought i was a benefit cheat i was totally at a loss. I contacted a solicitor and asked the council to move my interview forward, the thought of waiting a month with this over my head was too much. During a meeting with my solicitor she noticed that our tax credits had increased in June and she said that will be what it is. She was right! the ouncil had picked up on the increase in tax credits on the Nov renewal form, because it had the increased working tax credit on it. Why the council couldnt just ring or send a letter asking me about the changes! but no they start some benefit fraud investigation! My IUC was actually fine, the woman was very nice and made me feel completly at ease. She didnt treat me like a criminal even though i felt like one after getting that awful letter.

My solicitor had told me what to expect and said they would lead by asking me to tell them what changes I needed to tell the council about. The solicitor said to say that after seeking legal advise I had now been made aware that i should have informed the council about the increase in tax credits. I said I was very sorry for this genuine error and I was more than happy to pay back anything that I wasnt entittled to.

At the end of the interview she told me I would hear something in 4 weeks.

 

My letter arrived today!!! so much for 4 weeks! Anyway another horrible letter from the council, basically saying that I had been overpaid by £210 which would need to be paid back, also i need to attend yet another interview (not under caution) because the council see it fit to issue me with a administrative penalty notice!!!!!!!!!!!! The penalty is £61.00. The letter is horrible it basically is saying that I dont have to agree to pay this penalty but if i dont they will start legal action against me! It says that the counicl are offering me the choice to pay this penalty as an alternative to a prosecution! Ive been hopping mad all day about it. Ive contacted my solicitor again and shes ringing me back. Does anybody out there have any advice? Anybody been through any similar things.

 

Thanks

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lizzysar

 

generally there are 5 possible outcomes to benefit fraud investigations

 

1) no overpayment at all - no further action

2) an overpayment, but no offence committed - normally have to repay overpayment

3) an overpayment and a caution offered - repay overpayment and caution recorded against your name - cautions can only be offered where a person admits blame

4) an overpayment and an administrative penalty applied - repay overpayment and a 30% fine on top - these are only offered where the council believes they have a strong enough case to prosecute - a refusal to accept an administrative penalty will automatically lead to the council prosecuting

5) an overpayment and a prosecution case - repay overpayment and full court case - with a range of different penalties (if found guilty) - also even if found not guilty, you will most likely still have to repay the overpayment

 

it sounds like the council suspect that you are guilty of an offence, possibly for failure to declare change in circumstances

 

as you have not admitted blame, they cannot offer you a caution, so that leaves the choice of administrative penalty or court case - in effect they now offer you the choice of paying the council fine, or having your name in the papers/etc

 

if you decide to refuse the administrative penalty, please ensure that your solicitor is one that specialises in social security cases

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Thank you for your reply. I just dont understand why they think they have a case against me. I didnt purposly miss lead them in any way. I'll end up paying the fine I know just to make it go away and I certainly dont want my name in the paper. I have got a new job now but is quite low paid! better than nothing though and they do say its easier to get another job when you already have one. Not happy with the way the whole things been handled though so will be looking into complaining. Thanks again

 

I just posted a new thread if you'd care to read it.. Thanks

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I think it's shocking that they have gone through all this because of just over 200 quid! It is so not in the publics interest to prosecute you. Court isn't cheap! I dont know now whether your council are complete drama queens or mine are too lax! Ours 'apparently' doesn't call people in for amounts under 500, they just send you an over payment letter.

I had one in about november last year because like you I didn't cotton on tax credits had gone up. Mine was about 120 pounds over payment, which went back to april 09. So they can obviously find out from the tax place what you're getting anyway, as they didn't ask me, first I knew was the over payment letter. Like you I would have assumed these dept's talked to each other!

They took it out my benefit weekly at 20 quid. I paid the housing assosiation in january when I sold my car & bought a cheaper one.

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I know they are trying to crack down on fraud and send out messages but hell, a threatened prosecution for such a piddly amount?! The cost of bringing it to court would be higher than the overpayment and admin penalty combined. That's just ridiculous.

 

I'd initially make sure that the overpayment calculation was correct and if not, appeal against it. CAB or a Welfare Rights office will be able to assist with this calculation and any subsequent appeal. If the interview is very close, you can ask them to defer it whilst you seek advice.

 

Cant tell you whether to accept the penalty or not; that's a decision that only you can make. I can only tell you how I'd feel. If it were me, I'd want it going all the way to court and plead not guilty because there appears there was no intent to deceive here, and I'd hope the court would see that then they could whistle for their admin penalty (they can still recover the overpayment though even if found not guilty as overpayments are goverened by civil law, fraud by criminal law) But in reality I'd probably actually pay the penalty because I don't have a criminal record and I wouldn't want to take the risk of one over such a piddly amount.

My advice is based on my opinion, my experience and my education. I do not profess to be an expert in any given field. If requested, I will provide a link where possible to relevant legislation or guidance, so that advice provided can be confirmed and I do encourage others to follow those links for their own peace of mind. Sometimes my advice is not what people necesserily want to hear, but I will advise on facts as I know them - although it may not be what a person wants to hear it helps to know where you stand. Advice on the internet should never be a substitute for advice from your own legal professional with full knowledge of your individual case.

 

 

Please do not seek, offer or produce advice on a consumer issue via private message; it is against

forum rules to advise via private message, therefore pm's requesting private advice will not receive a response.

(exceptions for prior authorisation)

 

 

 

 

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This sounds like a useful revenue raising exercise on the part of the council, I wonder how many more with small OP's are now being hit with adpens. Ridiculous. I would put in an appeal and make them work for the money. And like Erika I might call their bluff and say I want to go to court.

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not that new, i remember a friend getting one in the mid 1990s

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In our area the penalties would be used with moderate-large overpayments that weren't being prosecuted but not with smaller ones. I've not seen an adpen on a an OP smaller than £1500 - but then our LA rarely prosecuted. Overpayments of thousands sometimes and not even an adpen, just a straight overpayment.

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Most LAs will have their own policy which will dictate in which situations they will offer a caution, administrative penalty or prosecute - you could try requesting your LAs policy under a Freddom of Information request

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You can also find it in google, I found our councils & this is a bit from it about deciding to prosecute or not. Ours also does mention not to impose penalties for under 500 quid.

 

Some common public interest factors in favour of prosecution..

The seriousness of the offence taking into account the amount of the

overpayment and the duration of the alleged offence;

a conviction is likely to result in a significant sentence

the defendant was in a position of authority or trust;

there is evidence that the offence was premeditated, e.g. the benefit claim

was false from its inception;

there is evidence that the defendant instigated and organised the fraud;

there is previous incidence of fraud;

there are grounds for believing that the alleged offence is likely to be continued

or repeated, based on any history of recurring conduct;

the alleged offence, irrespective of its seriousness, is widespread in the area it

is or was committed

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And this..

 

Some common public interest factors against prosecution...

the court is likely to impose a nominal penalty;

the offence was committed as a result of a genuine mistake or

misunderstanding (factors balanced against the seriousness of the

offence);

the impact of any loss of funds can be described as minor and was the result of

a single incident, particularly if it was the result of

misjudgement;

there have been long and avoidable delays between the offence taking place

and the date of the trial, unless:

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