The 14 Words

Monday, 16 September 2013

Working Class Benefit cheats face 10 years in prison as Keir Starmer sets out 'tough' new Crown Prosecution Service guidelines

Director of Public Prosecutions said those suspected of benefit cheating can now be charged under the Fraud Act


Benefit cheats could face up to 10 years in prison as part of the Crown Prosecution Service’s new “tough stance” on those flouting the system.

Keir Starmer QC, Britain's most senior prosecutor, said the £1.9 billion that benefit and tax fraudsters cost the taxpayer every year must now influence lawyers’ decisions on whether a prosecution was in the public interest.

Announcing new guidelines for the CPS, the Director of Public Prosecutions said suspects can now be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

In the past, benefit cheats have often been pursued under specific social security legislation which carries a maximum term of seven years.

A financial threshold which prevented benefit fraud cases of less than £20,000 from being sent to crown court will also be abolished, the CPS said.

Mr Starmer said: 
“It is a myth that 'getting one over on the system' is a victimless crime: the truth is we all pay the price”.
He added: 
“It is vital that we take a tough stance on this type of fraud and I am determined to see a clampdown on those who flout the system.“
Under the new guidelines, prosecutors in England and Wales will be told to seek tough penalties in cases with aggravating features such as multiple offences, abuse of position or substantial loss to public funds.

Professionally planned frauds, the use of a false or stolen identity and cases involving attempts to dispose of the evidence will also be targeted.

Benefit fraud of less than £20,000 was previously automatically allocated to magistrates courts, which can hand out maximum sentences of only 12 months.

The financial threshold will now be abolished, bringing the prosecution of benefit fraud in line with the prosecution of other fraud cases, the CPS said.

The move follows the merger of the prosecutions division of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the CPS in April 2012, and the transfer of staff to the CPS Welfare, Rural and Health Division.

Mr Starmer added: 
“The guidance for prosecutors is clear that if the evidence demonstrates an element of dishonesty, rather than just knowledge of a fraud, the appropriate charges should be used.
“This will ensure that following conviction, all options are on the table for magistrates and judges including custodial sentences. Indeed, prosecutors are also instructed not to shy away from using a range a legislation that carries higher sentences where it is merited.”
He added: 
“The cost to the nation incurred by benefit fraud should be at the forefront of lawyers' minds when considering whether a prosecution is in the public interest. The loss of £1.9 billion of public money has a significant impact on communities up and down the country.
“Where frauds have been professionally planned, carried out over a long period of time and include attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, then we will make this plain when advising the courts on sentencing.”
Last year, the CPS saw more than 8,600 prosecutions in benefit and tax credit cases, along with 4,000 in the first five months of this year, Mr Starmer said. The current conviction rate is 89.7 per cent, he added.


That's for the likes of us, what about them?

MPs’ expenses surpass pre-scandal levels as 150 give jobs to family

MPs’ expenses claims have risen to more than was paid out before the expenses scandal broke, as more than 150 politicians paid members of their families, official figures show.

Nadine Dorries

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP, employed both her daughters during the course of the last financial year, with the recent graduates each receiving salaries of between £30,000 and £45,000.

Mrs Dorries, 56, who was suspended from the party last year over her appearance on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, was among 155 MPs employing family members, including five ministers.

The total bill for MPs’ expenses, including staffing costs, rose to £98.1  million in 2012, compared with £95.4 million in 2009, when the expenses scandal was exposed by The Telegraph.

The figures will add to concern that wide-reaching reforms of the system have not managed to curtail costs. After the 2009 scandal, the Committee on Standards in Public Life called for employing relations in Parliament to be banned, but it was overruled after an outcry by MPs.

Philippa Dorries, 28, was paid at a rate of between £40,000 and £44,999 a year last year, while Jennifer Dorries, 26, received a salary of between £30,000 and £34,999.

Philippa left the office in August last year and Jennifer joined soon afterwards. The sisters did not work for their mother at the same time. Mrs Dorries wrote on Twitter: 
“I do employ my daughter. Always have always will.”
Earlier this year, Mrs Dorries repaid £3,000 in travel expenses after accepting that the claims were “wrongfully made and should not have been allowed”.

Commenting on Twitter, Mrs Dorries said: 
“I do employ my daughter. Always have always will. She never asks 'can this wait until Monday’ when I call about work on a Sunday night at 9pm!” 
In 2012-13, MPs claimed a total of £23.8  million in expenses for travel, accommodation and office running costs, according to figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). In addition to these expenses, London MPs could claim up to £144,000 a year for staffing costs and non-London-based MPs could claim £137,200.

Two Conservative MPs, Christopher Chope and Peter Bone, paid their wives the highest amount – between £45,000 and £49,999 a year.

A further eight MPs, including Ms Dorries, paid family members between £40,000 and £44,999.

Stephen Hammond, the transport minister, paid his wife up to £45,000, while Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, and Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, paid their wives between £35,000 and £39,999.

Andrew Miller, the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, employed both his wife, Fran, and his cousin, Julie Spencer. Meg Munn, the Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, employed her husband and her sister-in-law.

Laurence Robertson, the Conservative MP for Tewkesbury, employed both his estranged wife, Susan Robertson, and his current partner, Anne Marie Adams. Mrs Robertson is his senior secretary and is paid between £25,000 and £29,999, while Ms Adams received between £40,000 and £44,999 last year.

Ipsa said that a total of more than £35 million has been saved since new rules and monitoring of parliamentary expenses were introduced.

The £23.8 million claimed for non-payroll expenses in 2012-13 compared with £34.7 million in 2008-09, the final year of the previous scheme run by House of Commons authorities.

Ipsa published details of the money paid out to MPs for parliamentary expenses over the course of the last financial year, as well as details of claims processed in April and May this year.

Special security Spending rises by 60pc

There has been a sharp increase in the amount spent on special security for MPs.

In 2011-12 the bill for measures “recommended and endorsed” by the police was £80,692. Last year it reached £129,829 — a rise of more than 60 per cent. Between May 2010 and March 2011, only £36,948 was paid out.

Details of which MPs claimed for security costs were withheld.

Ipsa will only accept a claim if it comes with a copy of a report by a police force or security agency setting out the grounds for the proposed expenditure. The watchdog must be satisfied that the MP’s ability to perform his or her parliamentary functions safely would be significantly impaired if the claim was not accepted. Claims must be approved in advance.

Before 2009, MPs claimed for a range of items, including security lights, on their expenses.

Bonus payments Staff given £13,000

MPs handed out £13,163 in “reward and recognition” payments to 49 staff members last year.

The rules give politicians discretion to distribute “reasonable” sums when employees have performed well, although family members are not eligible.

Staff bonuses were abolished following the expenses scandal amid concern that MPs were using them to boost their family income. However, the rules were changed after MPs appealed to Ipsa.

Of the 19 MPs who gave reward payments last year, Mark Pritchard, a Tory backbencher, handed one member of staff £750 and Brooks Newmark, a fellow Conservative, shared £1,800 between three people.

Last year 57 staffers received a total of £8,104 in rewards.


And what about these Parasites?

The Queen and Charles agree to share spoils of new Cornish gold bonanza

The Queen has struck a deal with Prince Charles to split the proceeds of gold reserves which have been discovered in Cornwall.


 

After prospectors found ‘commercial quantities’ of the precious metal, royal advisers have decided to resolve a centuries-old row between the Crown Estate and Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall over who has the right to the profits.

The deal came after businessmen reopened an old Cornish tin mine and concluded that there may be millions of pounds of gold there. The Crown Estate, which until now has claimed proceeds from mining in the area, agreed to hand half of any profits to the Duchy.

But the deal has upset anti-monarchist campaigners, who said that while Crown Estate revenues go directly to the Treasury, the Duchy, which funds Charles’ activities, is exempt from corporation tax.

The gold was found at South Crofty mine, near Camborne, which was once the heart of Cornwall’s historic tin industry. It remained closed for nearly a decade until Western United Mines was granted permission to search for tin, copper, zinc and other metals in 2006. 
Two years ago, the firm carried out tests on extracted material and found traces of gold.

Since 1568, the permission of the Crown Estate has been needed to remove gold from the so-called Mines Royal. But because the 130,000-acre Duchy, created in 1337, also covers the mining area, dispute has raged for more than 400 years over who is entitled to the revenue.

Now, documents released under Freedom of Information rules have revealed that a deal has been struck.

A letter from David Harris, the Crown Estate’s deputy head of legal, to the Queen’s lawyers Farrer & Co last year, sets out the agreement that while the Crown Estate will continue to grant mining licences, including for gold, it will give ‘50 per cent of any revenue or capital receipts, net of costs, to the Duchy of Cornwall’.

The Crown Estate said the deal was still being formalised.



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