Benefit Fraud why you may be better off instructing your benefit fraud solicitor privately.
There are more and more benefit fraud prosecutions. As a result more and more people need the services of an expert benefit fraud solicitor. This is a result of two things. Firstly, the austerity measures brought in by the government. Secondly because the DWP and local authorities now have access to data bases which tell them:
- How many banks accounts a claimant has.
- The balance of each account.
- Interest paid on capital.
- Houses owned by claimants.
- Credit applications made.
- Vehicles owned
In fact, it is very easy for investigators to find out all about a claimant’s circumstances without leaving their desk. Often the first a claimant knows about an investigation is an invitation a benefit fraud interview under caution. You will need an expert benefit fraud solicitor and you can find out more about that in our blog here. I now want to talk about what to do if you have been charged with a benefit fraud offence and in particular whether you decide to apply for legal aid or to pay privately. Almost everyone starts out thinking that they want to apply for legal aid. This is a result of many factors which include:
- Lack of understanding about how legal aid works
- A misunderstanding that legal aid is “free”.
- An expectation that they might get the same service on legal aid as if they paid privately
- Fear of the cost of paying privately
- They feel that money spent on a court case is wasted.
In the magistrate’s court legal aid is means tested. If you do not pass the means test you will not be eligible for legal aid and will either have to appear unrepresented or pay privately. If you do pass, then you will be given a representation order without any contribution.
In the Crown Court you will be means tested and may be asked to pay a contribution from income. Strangely there is no upper capital limit in the Crown Court, so you could have hundreds of thousands in the bank and still be eligible. But beware, Legal Aid is not free. If you, have over £30,000 capital or equity in your home or other property you may have to pay all the costs of your case. This will happen if you plead guilty or are convicted. The Legal Aid Agency will demand a contribution from you and will take robust enforcement action if you do not pay.
Will you get the same service in your benefit fraud case on legal aid as if you paid privately?
The short answer is no. The service you receive and the quality of representation will, in most cases, be of an inferior quality if you are represented under legal aid. The service will still be professional. The advice you get will be accurate. The conduct of your case will not fall below a minimum standard deemed acceptable by the Legal Aid Agency. You will not however get a premium service, delivered by an expert in their field with decades of experience in benefits fraud and a results and case list to prove it.
Money! I will give you an idea of the basic legal aid fees a solicitor is paid for a benefit fraud case. For a contested Crown Court trial up to two days with 50 pages of evidence they will get £357. For a guilty plea in the Crown Court £195.
It is not surprising, given the payments above, that most legal aid work will be done by trainees and paralegals. It is simply uneconomic for a senior solicitor with years of experience to work for these rates. If they do so they are working at a loss.
Private client solicitor charging rates for benefit fraud cases will start at around £175 an hour. Legal aid rates are about £45 an hour, this is simply not enough. The solicitor cannot provide the level of service their client deserves at that price.
How will instructing a solicitor privately improve the outcome of my case?
You will get the most senior lawyers with the right experience for your case. They will spend the time required with you. They will be able to follow every line of investigation whether in your defence or as mitigation. You will benefit from their many years of experience, the depth of their knowledge and their complete commitment to you case. Most importantly solicitors much prefer to be working for a client who knows their worth and is prepared to pay for it.
Is it really expensive?
We believe our fees are reasonable and very competitive. As with all things in life you get what you pay for. Our hourly rates and fixed fees are on our website for all to see .
It is not a waste of money.
Your benefit fraud case is one of the most important things that will happen to you. It is worth spending time, effort and money to get the right advice at the right time. It can mean the difference between acquittal and conviction. In guilty plea cases it can be the difference between prison and not. This is because in some cases there really is a lot that can be done to reduce liability. This includes challenging the prosecutions figures, evidence as to character and psychological and medical evidence relevant to the allegation.
Our senior benefit fraud solicitors are true experts in these cases, some of more than 15 years. They are here to help you. Call Keith Hollywood on 0208 986 8336, e mail him on [email protected] or use the web contact form. There is no charge for initial enquiries. We have prepared A selection of benefit and related fraud cases conducted by Keith Hollywood for you to look at.
A few of the recent benefit and related fraud cases conducted by Keith Hollywood:
£16,000 benefit success , £130,000 over payment case , £17000 Benefit fraud , £40,0000 housing benefit case , £37,000 Tax credit fraud , £50,000 benefit fraud , Case withdrawn , Working Tax Credit fraud no case , £50,000 prosecution averted , £40,000 over-payment , £140,000 win , £2,000,000 fraud case , £30,000 case , Pension credit acquittal