Benefit fraud to be discussed by council

Benefit fraud prosecutions are to be considered by a Central Beds Council committee on Monday.

At its meeting the council’s audit committee will be looking particularly at how it considers possible prosecutions of benefit cheats.

When deciding whether to pursue criminal proceedings the committee is recommending that the council considers carefully whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction.

Careful consideration should also be made as to whether a prosecution is in the public interest, the committee will recommend.

In his report prepared for the meeting Charles Warboys, chief finance officer stresses the importance of considering the wider ramifications of each case before proceeding with possible prosecutions.

The report states: “Public interest factors which are considered include the amount of the overpayment and the duration of the offence, any abuse of position or privilege, any previous incidence of fraud, whether there are grounds for believing that the offence is likely to be continued or repeated, based on any history of recurring conduct or whether the claimant is elderly or suffering from significant mental or physical ill health. We do not prosecute where we believe a genuine error has been made by the claimant.”

In less serious cases the council also has the option of imposing a simple caution.

These are usually given when the overpayment is less than £2,000.