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Rastamouse creator accused of benefit fraud. 

 

Mike Hughes
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Senior Welfare Rights Officer (Take-Up), Salford WRS.

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All my worlds colliding here. I am devastated. Hopefully someone will be able to “make a bad thing good”!
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/rastamouse-creator-of-cbeebies-hero-accused-of-benefit-fraud-a4119286.html

Edited because “thing” ought to have been “ting” as per the theme tune.

      [ Edited: 17 Apr 2019 at 10:40 am by Mike Hughes ]
Daphne
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No!

     
past caring
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Welfare Rights Adviser - Southwark Law Centre, Peckham

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Babylon mek we dweet!

     
nevip
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welfare rights adviser, sefton council, liverpool

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Holy Mount Zion Batman!

     
neilbateman
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On a more serious note, I would not be surprised if DWP have got things wrong in some way. 

Did he notify them and have they lost that notification?  Have they calculated the income (royalties I assume), correctly?  As HB is involved, have they done underlying entitlement? (a common, elementary and serious error which inflates the overpayments).  If he was working for 16+ hours per week, there may be notional TC entitlement in mitigation.  etc, etc.

I have done expert witness work in nearly 200 benefit fraud prosecutions and only about 5% have been wholly correct.  In one case, an OP of about £250,000 turned out to be just a tenth of that.  Loads have ended up being revised and put people into the non-custodial sentencing bracket.

Frankly, I simply don’t believe any alleged fraudulent overpayment figures and I remain concerned that these sort of social security legal issues don’t get identified by criminal defence lawyers, the CPS, the courts and too often even some advice agencies which tell people they can’t help in fraud cases.

However, In view of winding down for retirement, I no longer do such work but it is much needed as I remain convinced that serious injustices are occurring and even some people are receiving custodial sentences when they should not.

     
Mike Hughes
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Senior Welfare Rights Officer (Take-Up), Salford WRS.

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I wholly agree. It’s why I love overpayment and so-called fraud cases. The “evidence” is mostly between a shambles and non-existent. In other circumstances it would be called “trying it on”. Your 4th paragraph is especially true.

I also don’t believe 95% of the fraud cases which make the mainstream media would be classified as fraud at all if handled properly from the off by competent legal professionals and WROs. The number of times I have heard “Well if you did it you’ll have to pay it back!” as the starting point from both quarters is depressing and simply untrue. The correct approach should be that we don’t care one way or another as to the accuracy of an accusation. We should only care whether the accusing party has sufficient evidence to make the case.

“Ducks”.

     
ClairemHodgson
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and of course, you’re also back to “tribunal or mags”? (or in this case, “tribunal or crown court”?)

     
Oldestrocker
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Quite a common situation. Firstly by the time the claimant has been through the interview stage he/she is almost convinced that they are guilty. Next comes the court proceedings. Some local legal aid funded solicitor is appointed. Looks through the documentation and tells the claimant that they are bang to right. Pleads guilty at Crown Court and receives a 6 month sentence 5 months of it suspended. The claimant then hears the words - take him down!

Released from prison after 2 weeks and is told that he now owes the government £X. Still convinced that he was guilty because everybody said he was.

Goes to see the CAB because he can’t repay the debt - should he declare himself bankrupt.

CAB actually ask him if he has appealed against the overpayment? err no, didn’t know I could. Story concludes after appearing at a Tribunal that there never was an overpayment in the first place.

Poor guy now has a criminal record, is unable to visit many countries on holiday, now has difficulty getting a job and has lost his home.
Actually a true story.

Appeal & Tribunal should be considered before any legal case is heard..

     
Mike Hughes
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Senior Welfare Rights Officer (Take-Up), Salford WRS.

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I’ll take some convincing that the imprisonment bit is anything like “common”. The rest of it is ball park. Ideally yes an appeal would be heard before a court case but there’s now enough case law to be clear that there’s nothing which compels that.

My line has always been that you appeal all recoverable overpayments where the law allows because the evidence for recoverability is usually somewhere between speculative and non-existent. I’m not really interested in whether a claimant “did work” or whatever or not. It’s not my role to pass moral judgement along the lines of “well you did and therefore you ought to pay it back”. The only issue for a WRO ought to be whether or not there’s the evidence.

Worth noting that in out of time cases the mere act of doing FOIs for transcripts etc. can get you back to a position where something can be opened up. Did it on a 4 year old o/p and got 3 o/ps wiped out along with 3 admin. penalties. Currently doing it on an ESA case.