Freephone: 0800 1933 999
Mobile Freephone: 01623 397 200

Chat Online

Criminal Defence Blog

Archive for March, 2016

Benefit Fraud and Savings

Benefit fraud and savings


Benefit Fraud and Savings


We recently acted for two different clients, both of whom were being investigated for Benefit Fraud.  In both cases we were able to persuade the Department for Work and Pensions that criminal charges were not appropriate.


Client A had a poor credit rating, very poor. In the past he had struggled financially and had got himself into debt.  He was now clear and trying hard to regain some financial credibility by rebuilding his credit rating. He was signed off work due to health issues and in receipt of several benefits, he didn’t have the luxury of savings etc, he was living week to week. His mother was selling her house and downsizing, and to help him she put the proceeds into an account in his name. It was not his money, it was never intended to be his money, but with his mother’s agreement, he did make a number of transactions in and out to friends from the money. His belief was that this would help with his credit rating. During this period he had not worked, the moneys in and out of his account were not due to salary, just playing around with the transfer of money in the mistaken belief that it would help his credit rating. He also began to act as a ‘bank’ for a few friends – with them giving him small sums regularly to put away towards their holiday.  Again the full amount remained, in his eyes, belonging to the original individual, he was just holding onto it so they couldn’t spend it.


He was investigated for benefit fraud.  We liaised with the DWP; attending meetings with him and providing details of where the monies were from and why.  We supported him throughout the case and were thrilled to be able to advise him that the DWP had decided that no criminal charges would be brought. This process took about 6 months, during which time we remained in close contact with the client, even after the case had been passed to the decision team at the DWP and we were told not to expect a response for at least 6 weeks. At the end of his case our client was very happy with the outcome and with our involvement.


Client B was a student in receipt of disability allowances. She was due to attend a mandatory residential event as part of her course, unfortunately the event was not suitable for her and accessibility was a big issue. The week was, in her words, a nightmare of embarrassment and pain where she was repeatedly unable to participate (or worse) due to the lack of resources available to her as a wheelchair bound blind woman.  She even suffered a further serious injury due to the staff’s attempts to make the venue ‘work’ for her.


There was never any question that the University had made a mistake – they fully accepted that the accommodation booked was not wheelchair accessible, that no risk assessment had been completed as regards her needs and that she should have been warned of the unsuitability of the event for her and an alternative offered or an alternative venue should have been booked. The University settled with our client for the distress caused. Unfortunately this meant our client now had a significant sum in savings, which she used to buy her own mobility vehicle for use by her carers.


Our client was then investigated for benefit fraud – for claiming support when she had savings.  We liaised with the client and the DWP, pointing out the unfairness of a disability discrimination compensation payment being used to remove her entitlement to the allowance she received to pay for a carer. As we were able to identify the source of the funds, and show that they had now been spent, the DWP agreed that this sum should not be held against her. Their investigative file was closed and no further action was taken. Our client was very relieved and grateful for our assistance.


At Forrest Williams we understand that people can unwittingly and unintentionally conduct themselves in a manner which would raise suspicions with the fraud team at the DWP. We know that benefit fraud is not always intentional. In particular benefit fraud and savings can be a complex issue and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. 


If you are being investigated on suspicion of Benefit Fraud then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 397200. We will work with you to get the best possible outcome for you.



Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings

What is a PTPH – Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing?


All cases sent to the Crown Court after 5 January 2016 will be sent to a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing.


Q: Why has there been a change?


A: There has, for some time, been a feeling within the legal system that Preliminary Hearings (in cases where not guilty pleas are expected) have been held too early in the process and that Plea and Case Management Hearings (PCMHs) are either not necessary or do not take place at a time when they could be most effective. This has resulted in lots of different hearings. Added to this are the different local practices and recording methods, which has resulted in court orders not being clearly communicated to those who must act on them, which in turn has resulted in non-compliance. The new PTPH means the adoption of a single national process to be used in all Crown Courts.


Q: When does the PTPH take place?


A: The PTPH takes place a little later than Preliminary Hearings, usually 28 days after sending, unless the Resident Judge orders otherwise. It occurs after the prosecution has provided available information about the case and obtained details of the availability of likely prosecution witnesses. In most cases, this should be sufficient to enable the court to case manage effectively without the need for a Further Case Management Hearing (FCMH) before trial. The PTPH presumes that the parties will have communicated with each other prior to the PTPH in accordance with the duty of engagement, and that they will continue to do so after the PTPH.


Q: What are the aims of the new system?


A: The overarching aims are as follows:


  • a single national process
  • robust case management
  • a reduced number of hearings
  • the earlier resolution of pleas and the identification of the issues of the case
  • the maximum participation and engagement by every participant within the system
  • effective compliance with the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR); Practice and Court Directions.


Q: I have heard of a new Digital Case System. What is this?


A: Running parallel with the introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing in the provision of the Digital Case System (DCS) to all Crown Courts before the end of March 2016. When the DCS has been fully implemented, there will be no paper files in the Crown Court. All the documents referred to in criminal cases (i.e. indictments, statements, paper exhibits, defence statements, applications and written orders) will be uploaded onto the DCS and will then be accessible to defence lawyers via computers, tablets and smartphones. Paper copies will still be needed, however, for those without representation as well as jurors. Documents will be ‘served’ when they are uploaded onto the system AND a notification sent by email to the party or parties involved. Any paperwork handed over during a hearing will only be ‘filed’ once it has been uploaded onto the DCS.


Q: What is meant by the Common Platform and why is it important?


A: The introduction of the Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing is a step towards electronic case management and the electronic monitoring of compliance which will be possible with the introduction of the Common Platform. The use of a single national process with largely standard directions is essential to the future development of systems for the court, prosecution and defence that work one with another.


If you are looking for specialist criminal defence lawyers, call our team now on 01623 600645.


Forrest Williams solicitors

Fraud By Abuse of Position

Kirsty Day of Forrest Williams


Fraud By Abuse of Position


It was the day before Christmas Eve, normally where offices have got Christmas music blaring and staff playing Christmas themed crosswords and mentally “switching off” before the festive break.


Not Forrest Williams.


I received a call from a young woman who sounded very timid and worried.  She had a court case currently underway and was using a Legal Aid solicitor who she didn’t feel was doing enough to help.  She wanted to speak to someone who she felt would care about putting the effort into helping her. She came to the right firm.


Laura was under investigation for Fraud by abuse of position, namely that she had been working as a sales assistant and dishonestly abused this position to make a financial gain of £9,000.


Laura was very remorseful – she had been going through a lot personally and was trying to battle her depression by working through it when she should have been taking the time off work.  She lashed out the only way she knew how.


Her court case was on New Year’s Eve. Instead of telling Laura we were unable to help due to the close proximity of her case and the time of year, I made sure I did everything possible to help her even though I was off over the festive period myself!  I instantly provided her with all my contact details, promising to come back to her via email, call or text as soon as I could even when off work, and also rallied our amazing team together to make sure that everyone knew of Laura’s case and would be able to help during our minimum staffing levels.


When you call Forrest Williams your call is answered within 3 rings by a lawyer who can help. I wonder how many other firms would have offered Laura the same service, especially at Christmas time?


Laura appeared at the Magistrates Court on New Year’s Eve with an experienced criminal barrister to represent her. We were confident we had a fully prepared file; Laura was confident that her barrister would fight her corner. Imagine our surprise when the prosecution decided to replace Laura’s charge of fraud by abuse of position of £9,000 up to fraud by abuse of position of £30,000!


The case was sent up to the Crown Court.  My constant liaison and pressure on the prosecution between the two hearings meant that I managed to secure Laura’s original charge and have the prosecution withdraw the higher amount of £30,000. The difference in terms of sentencing options for these two amounts was huge, with a custodial sentence much more likely for the higher amount.  Laura was ecstatic and couldn’t believe that the hard work of Forrest Williams behind the scenes had managed to secure this.


Laura appeared at the Crown Court with the same barrister and we managed to work towards a favourable outcome for Laura. Her custodial sentence was suspended meaning Laura could now focus on working through her depression and concentrate on her upcoming wedding.  She was eternally grateful for the determination of myself as her dedicated case worker, the friendly help of calling through to a member of the team willing to help on every phone call, and the continuity of the same barrister attending her hearings.


Switching from Legal Aid to a private firm potentially saved Laura from going to custody.


If you feel your Legal Aid firm aren’t doing their best to work on your case and want the full benefits of instructing privately; or you know your life is too important to risk not having the best legal help, please call our team on 01623 397200.




Forrest Williams TV