13 March 2013
Freedom of Information Request: Suspected Benefit Fraud
Thank you for your request 12 January 2013 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), in which you requested the following:
"1) Can you tell me how many cases of suspected benefit fraud were referred to the Crown Office in 2012?
2) Out of this total can you tell me how many times the Crown Office decided not to proceed with a prosecution? And what were the reasons behind the decision?
3) Can you also tell me how many prosecutions for benefit fraud happened in 2012 and how many were successful?
4) Can you also tell me out of this total how much money the Crown Office retrieved in Confiscation Orders?
5) For the above four questions, can you also supply answers for the years 2011, 2010 and 2009."
It may help to explain that Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) uses a live operational case management system, specifically designed to receive criminal and death reports from the police and other specialist reporting agencies and to manage the cases for prosecution purposes. The information held on the system is structured for these operational needs, rather than for statistical reporting or research purposes. The system records "charges" and any one case against an individual can include more than one charge.
We discussed some options regarding this request (on 24 January) and agreed that COPFS would provide you with information relating to cases including charges reported by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) from 2009-12.
- 1,590 charges were reported in 2009-10; 1,601 in 2010-11; 1,742 in 2011-12
- The number of charges which were part of cases in which No Action was taken was 233 in 2009-10; 243 in 2010-11; 316 in 2011-12
- The reasons for the no action decisions included: age of offence; civil remedy more appropriate; delay by police/agency; further action disproportionate; insufficient admissible evidence; mitigating circumstances; not a crime; time barred on receipt and 'other reasons' ( which are not further coded)
- The number of charges reported each year which were prosecuted was 1,249 in 2009-10; 1,237 in 2010-11; 1,198 in 2011-12
- Of the prosecutions relating to offences reported in 2009-10 - 826 have resulted in a conviction and 39 are still subject of ongoing court proceedings
- Of the prosecutions relating to offences reported in 2010-11 - 758 have resulted in a conviction and 83 are still subject of ongoing court proceedings
- Of the prosecutions relating to offences reported in 2011-12 - 628 have resulted in a conviction and 273 are still subject of ongoing court proceedings
You also asked for information about how much money was retrieved in Confiscation Orders arising out of these charges. It is not possible to link the conviction information with any resulting Confiscation Order as there can be delays between the conclusion of the criminal proceedings and the subsequent Confiscation proceedings. There might also be some delay in collection (by Scottish Court Service) of monies due and possibly some revision of the amounts. It is also open to the court upon conviction to impose a compensation order.
The total amounts confiscated (by year of the Order)
2009/2010 - 8 orders made to a total of £118,854.44
2010/2011 - 6 orders made to a total of £147,729.42
2011/2012 - 12 orders made to a total of £182,645.45