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Criminal Defence Blog

Archive for September, 2016

Benefit Fraud Solicitors

benefit fraud solicitors

Maria Daker was represented at her sentencing hearing at Sheffield Crown Court this week by benefit fraud solicitors  Forrest Williams Legal Ltd.

Maria, who had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly obtaining Pension Credit (benefit fraud), had feared an immediate custodial sentence for this offence.

However, as a result of Steve Williams’ mitigation, the District Judge did not sentence Maria as harshly as he could have done.

Maria, who had been prosecuted for claiming Pension Credit over a 10 year period to a total in excess of £60,000 explained to Steve when she first instructed our benefit fraud solicitors that she had believed she was entitled to Pension Credit. She stressed she had not intended to make a claim that was in any way dishonest.

At the time, she told Steve, she was in the process of setting up home abroad with her husband but that she was making regular visits back to the UK.

She said she believed she was entitled to Pension Credit by virtue of her age, and that she thought the claim forms she had completed over the years were just a formality.

She added, on further questioning, that the relationship with her husband had been an abusive one and that she had felt under some pressure, from him, to renew her claims for Pension Credit even when they were no longer living in the UK.

He had assaulted her and injured her, she told us, and they had split up on a number of occasions. She had returned to him mostly through fear of his reaction if she refused to do so.

After taking part in an interview under caution with staff from the Department for Work and Pensions, a decision had been made to charge Maria and set a court date.

The matter moved from the Magistrates’ Court in Sheffield to the Crown Court, and Maria was given an appointment to meet with a Probation Officer, who would compile a pre-sentencing report for the court.

Our benefit fraud solicitors were able to liaise with the Probation Officer, who shared her recommendations for the court: a suspended sentence order with a curfew requirement. The Probation Officer deemed Maria unsuitable for a period of unpaid work.

In line with the recommendations of the Probation Officer, and Steve’s mitigation, Maria was sentenced to 12 months custody, suspended for 12 months. A curfew requirement was made, with a curfew from 1pm to 9pm every day apart from Friday. In addition, Maria was also informed that a tag would be fitted to her for a period of 4 months.

Although the matter was not finalised at this point, as there is still a Proceeds of Crime Application to be heard in the New Year, Maria expressed her gratitude to Steve and his team for the support received thus far in her case.

Her biggest fear – an immediate custodial sentence – was avoided. For Maria, this meant everything on the day of the sentencing hearing.

That she can face the future – difficult though it will be – without having to experience life in prison as a 70 year old, is the most precious thing to Maria right now. The rest can be sorted out, with further professional assistance.

If you need benefit fraud solicitors, call our office today on 01623 397200 for free, initial advice.


Revenge Porn Client Avoids Prison Sentence

revenge pornRevenge Porn Client Avoids Prison Sentence


If you are being investigated for revenge porn, you will need to be pro-active and get our expert team on your side immediately.  Call us now on 0800 1933 999.


In Derby Magistrates’ Court today, Zack Wallis told our experienced criminal defence solicitor, Steve Williams, that he was relieved about the outcome of his case and that he had learnt from what was a very worrying experience.


Zack, who is just 19 years of age, had been charged with the relatively new offence of Revenge Pornography.


(In April 2015, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 created a new criminal offence of Revenge Pornography, which made it an offence to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.)


When Zack first contacted us for help, he explained that the Revenge Porn charge had been brought as a result of actions he admitted, which he and his peer group thought were socially acceptable.


However, Steve Williams quickly made Zack aware that although growth in the use of social media made it very easy to share private photographs with a wide audience, new legislation meant that people doing this with the intention of causing distress to the ‘victim’ would be prosecuted.


Zack was shocked when Steve told him that the penalties for this offence included a maximum two year custodial sentence.


As in all cases which Forrest Williams Legal Ltd agree to take on, we spent time listening to Zack’s account of what had happened prior to his being charged with the offence.


Zack told us that he had been in a one year relationship with the victim some years ago. The relationship had ended after Zack found out the victim had been seeing someone else behind his back.


Out of the blue, Zack said, he received a message from the victim via Facebook and they communicated online for a while before agreeing to meet up.

When they met up, they had sex. Zack admitted he filmed them having sex, and he also admitted then sending the film to his friends. He said this was common practice amongst his peer group.


All was going well until Zack called the victim and a male answered her mobile phone. Zack told us he was angry, as he remembered how the victim had two-timed him in the past.


Zack then sent the film to his friends and, following an angry exchange between him and the victim, sent a copy of the film to her too. She contacted the police to report what Zack had done.


Zack was told by the District Judge that his actions were being taken very seriously by the court, and that a custodial sentence was being considered.


The initial hearing, at which Zack pleaded guilty to the offence, was adjourned off to a later date so he could meet with Probation Services and a pre-sentence report be prepared with recommendations for the court.


When Zack attended court with Steve for the second time, he was informed that a restraining order had been made as well as an order for him to pay £1,000 in costs to the victim, for whom the District Judge said the offence had caused “significant distress”.  Zack was also ordered to pay court costs and a victim surcharge.


Zack was very relieved to have avoided the custodial sentence which, at the first hearing, the District Judge warned him was a likely outcome. The starting point, according to the magistrates’ sentencing guidelines, was 6 weeks’ custody.


However, the court took into account Steve’s assertive handling of the case and the mitigation put forward on Zack’s behalf – including his remorse, good character and lack of previous offences.


Zack told us he had taken stock of his past behaviour and taken on board the need for his behaviour to change, regardless of what his peers continued to believe was ‘the norm’ for young people. Some behaviour, he had learned, could have very serious consequences.


If you have been charged with Revenge Porn, or if you have any questions about this new offence, contact our office today on 01623 397200 for free, initial advice.


Simple Caution: Should I Accept a Simple Caution?

simple cautionThis post gives general advice about what a Simple Caution is and whether you should accept one if offered one.  If you need specific advice about an ongoing case involving a simple caution, call our expert team now on 0800 1933 999 for bespoke advice.


What is a ‘Simple Caution’?


Previously known as a formal or police caution, it is a formal warning which may be given by the police to a person of 18 years of age who admits to committing an offence.


This disposal is aimed at dealing with low-level, mostly first-time offenders without the need for prosecutions, in circumstances whereby certain criteria are met.


NB: A conditional caution is not the same thing as a simple caution – conditions are attached to the former. Conditional cautions were introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.


A simple caution should only be offered to a person who admits the offence (“offender”), and who agrees to accept the simple caution. Offenders can refuse to accept a simple caution even if they have admitted guilt to an offence and their refusal may result in a prosecution.


A simple caution should only be offered where the decision maker is confident that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction if the offender were to be prosecuted.


A simple caution should not be offered if the decision maker decides it would be in the public interest for the offender to be prosecuted.


The caution forms part of an offender’s criminal record and may be referred to in future legal proceedings, or be disclosed in certain criminal records checks. Offenders should be warned about this before they accept a simple caution.


There is no formal right of appeal against this once it has been accepted by an offender, but it can be challenged by way of a complaint against the issuing police force, or in court by way of a judicial review.


Should I accept a simple caution?


Before you decide whether or not to accept the offer, you need to consider the following issues:-


–      Do you admit the offence? (If you do not, then you should not accept, as to accept it is an admission of your guilt.)


–      The simple caution, once accepted, forms part of your criminal record. A record will be retained by the police and it may be referred to in future legal proceedings.


–      Some criminal records checks may reveal this in future (i.e. to present or potential employers, in some occupations).


–      If you accept this disposal in relation to an offence in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will result in the offender becoming a “relevant offender” for the purposes of the notification and registration requirements of Part 2 of that Act. This means that the offender will be put on the “sex offenders register” for two years from the date of the simple caution.


–      It may be taken into account by the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) for those working, or intending to work, with children and vulnerable adults.


–      If further evidence comes to light after it has been accepted, a prosecution could still be brought against an offender, or a civil action, or a private prosecution.


–      Entry to other countries could be denied as some countries’ immigration policies may treat this in the same way as a conviction.


If you have concerns about the offer or acceptance of a simple caution, contact our office today for initial, free advice on 01623 397200.


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