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COPFS

Benefit Fraud – Greenock

Freedom of information: Benefit Fraud – Greenock

23 August 2013

Thank you for your e-mail dated 19 July 2013 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in which you seek the following information:

"1) The total number of people have been convicted of all types of benefit fraud from 30 July 2008 to 30 July 2013 at Greenock Sheriff Court.

2) The biggest single amount in £ Sterling of benefit fraud, and type of benefit fraud (eg Income Support). Please include full charge details and the sentence the person found guilty of the benefit fraud got.

3) The lowest single amount in £ Sterling of benefit fraud, and type of benefit fraud (eg Income Support). Please include the full charge details and the sentence the person found guilty of the benefit fraud got.

4) A breakdown by year of every type of benefit fraud conviction (eg Income Support, Pension Credit, Council Tax etc) and the amount of benefit they received which they were not entitled to in £ Sterling.

5) A breakdown of the people convicted of benefit fraud each year by their sex and age."

You indicated in your email of 29 July 2013 that you are willing to restrict your request to all benefit fraud reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) so that we could provide you with information in response to your request.

I have considered your requests below.

1) The information you have requested is attached within the table at Annex A. This table outlines the number of people convicted in Greenock Sheriff Court of all types of benefit fraud reported to COPFS by the DWP during the specified period. This table also specifies the ages and sex of these convicted persons. You should be aware that the information in this table does not show if a convicted individual was convicted of more than one benefit fraud charge.

2) The largest single benefit fraud that an individual was convicted of in Greenock Sheriff Court during the specified period was £64,457. This conviction related to a claim for Disability Living Allowance. The convicted individual was sentenced to a Community Payback Order. Please be aware, however, that although we have provided you with this information from the COPFS case management system, the sheriff clerk is the official record keeper in relation to such information.

3) The lowest single benefit fraud amount that an individual was convicted of in Greenock Sheriff Court during the specified period was £1,210.86. This conviction related to a claim for Incapacity Benefit. The convicted individual was sentenced to a Community Service Order. Please be aware, however, that although we have provided you with this information from the COPFS case management system, the sheriff clerk is the official record keeper in relation to such information.

4) It may assist 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.

Section 12(1) of FOISA does not oblige a Scottish public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request exceeds a specified financial threshold, which is currently £600.

A convicted person will not always be convicted of the value of benefit fraud that is outlined in the charges against them. They can either be found guilty following a trial of a greater or lesser amount or they can plead guilty to an amended value. While the case management system used by COPFS records the value of the benefit fraud that an individual was originally charged with, it does not record the value that an individual was eventually convicted of obtaining. In order to ascertain the exact value an individual was convicted of we would have to manually consider all of the hard copy papers held by Greenock Procurator Fiscal's Office relating to benefit fraud convictions. In addition, we could not provide a complete response to this part of your request because hard copy papers are only held for two years in summary cases, in accordance with our published Records Management Policy, which can be viewed at:http://www.copfs.gov.uk/component/content/article/26-footer/foi/291-class-5-how-the-authority-manages-its-human-physical-and-information-resources

I consider that it is not possible to respond to your information request on the basis of the considerable volume of records which would need to be manually checked to provide the information requested. This work could not be carried out within the £600 threshold. We are, on this occasion, therefore unable to provide this part of the information sought by you.

I am sorry that we are unable to assist you with this part of your request. This information will, however, be held by the Scottish Court Service. I attach a link to the relevant part of their website for your convenience.

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/about-the-scottish-court-service/contact-us/freedom-of-information

5) As already outlined, this information is contained within the table at Annex A. It has been decided to provide age ranges rather the specific age of each individual convicted person. This is to avoid the risk of disclosing these individuals' personal information thereby contravening the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998.

Annex A

Gender

Age Group

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

Grand Total

Female

20-39

3

2

2

6



13



40-59

5

3

6

3



17



60+



1







1

Female Total



8

6

8

9



31

Male

20-39



4

1

2

1

8



40-59

4

9



2



15



60+



6







6

Male Total



4

19

1

4

1

29

Grand Total



12

25

9

13

1

60