Life at the Bar

A Suggestion For the DPP

Why-do-politicians-lieI saw today that  the latest intention is to prosecute benefit fraudsters under the provisions of the Fraud Act 2006, rather than the social security legislation.

I also saw that the decision appears to be one by the DPP. I had always regarded the DPP as an apolitical servant of government. Now he is comfortable saying that benefit fraud needs a tough stance. Shades of American TV programmes perhaps.

Of course benefit fraud needs to be prosecuted. But the vast majority of these cases involve small sums and the proposition that sentences will greatly differ is dubious. In any event, that is a matter for the Court of Appeal who will issue guidance on specific facts, and for the Sentencing Guidelines Council, who could change the Guidelines if they judged it necessary.

However, if the DPP is able to recommend prosecutions under the Fraud Act, I wonder if he should consider S2. This provides that a person commits an offence if he dishonestly makes a false representation – including one he knows might be misleading regarding his own state of mind – to another intending to make a gain for himself.

The Liberal Democrats were elected on a platform of saying no to tuition fees. They asked people to vote for them on that basis. They trumpeted their triumph when they were elected in sufficient numbers to join the Government. They are each drawing an MP’s salary and claiming expenses.

Equally the Tories said they could solve the economic crisis, and that they were committed to education, mentoring and drug rehabilitation programmes to help young offenders “go straight”. They said nothing about getting rid of legal aid for a vast swathe of issues and a vast swathe of the population.

I merely point out that there are matters which are arguably more publicly concerning than benefit fraud and upon which – if the DPP feels it appropriate to decide and announce that “a tough stance” should be taken – he might care to reflect.

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