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COPFS

Benefit Fraud (22 July 2016) (R013506)

 

Thank you for your request dated 25 June under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for the undernoted information:
“I would be obliged if you can provide the following information in relation to referrals from DWP for prosecution for Benefit Fraud

1. In the year 2013/14 how many referrals where made for Benefit Fraud, broken down by Local Authority (Alternatively broken down by court/area if Local Authority information not available) and value of fraud (upto £5000, £5001 - £10,000, £10,001+)

2. Of these referrals how many where dealt with out of court and without prosecution, broken down by Local Authority or court and by value of fraud (upto £5000, £5001 - £10,000, £10,001+)

3. What is the average number of days from receipt of referral to court appearance. Broken down by court/area (Scottish average acceptable if breakdown not available)

4. Of those prosecuted, how many received prison sentences, broken down by days sentenced (upto 14 days, 15 - 30 days, 31 days+) and value of fraud (upto £5000, £5001 - £10,000, £10,001+)

5. Of those prosecuted, how many received community payback orders, broken down by hours sentenced (upto 50, 51 - 100, 100+) and value of fraud (upto £5000, £5001 - £10,000, £10,001+)”

I also refer to our e-mail correspondence of 5 July 2016 where you clarified that you required information in relation to Section 111A of the Social Security Administration Act.

In respect of point 1 of your request, I attach a table providing information on charges under Section 111A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, reported to COPFS by DWP in the Financial Year 2013/14, broken down by PF Office.  I have provided the information for PF Offices which have had more than five such charges reported to them. 

Please be aware that cases reported to COPFS may relate to one or more accused person and that each accused person may be the subject of one or more charges.

The Procurator Fiscal’s Offices of Campbeltown, Dunoon, Duns, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Lochmaddy, Peebles, Rothesay and Stonehaven have all had five or less charges reported to them during the period requested and, I consider that the requested information in relation to these offices is exempt from release under Section 38(1)(b) of FOISA.  This is because the numbers are small enough that their release could lead to identification of the persons involved.  This information would be personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  This is an absolute exemption and I am not required to apply the public interest test.

In respect of your request to have the figures broken down by value of fraud, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.  Under Section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under Section 12.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's case management database is a live, operating database.  It is designed to meet our business needs in relation to the processing of criminal cases, and the information within it is structured accordingly.  We do not have a separate database, and hold only operational data needed for business purposes.

In order to identify the values of fraud, Crown Office staff would be required to consider individually each report submitted in relation to Section 111A of the Social Security Act Administration Act 1992 in the time period requested and the time taken to complete this task would exceed the upper cost limit.

In respect of point 2 of your request, I can confirm that the total number of charges  which were dealt with out of court and without prosecution is 93.  I consider that the further breakdown as requested by you is exempt from release under Section 38(1)(b) of FOISA.  This is because the numbers are small enough that their release could lead to identification of the persons involved.  This information would be personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  This is an absolute exemption and I am not required to apply the public interest test.

In respect of point 3 of your request, the average number of days from receipt of referral to court appearance is not information which is held by COPFS and accordingly in terms of Section 17 of FOISA, this information is not held.

In respect of points 4 and 5 of your request, while we do hold some information in relation to sentencing, our database is not structured in such a way that this information can be easily extracted and the time taken to retrieve this information would again exceed the upper cost limit.  Statistical information about prosecutions can be extracted more easily from the Scottish Government Justice Department's Court Proceedings Database which is designed to provide statistical information.  It contains information about cases prosecuted in all Courts and can provide information either at the level of the specific offence or by certain broader groupings of offences (eg crimes of violence, crimes of dishonesty, offences involving drugs etc).  You can contact the Scottish Government Justice Department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 0131 244 2228.