Legal advice when dealing with a benefit fraud interview
Scott-Moncrieff’s specialist benefits lawyer, Prakash Ruparelia, represents people who have been accused of benefit fraud. Here he offers advice on how to respond to a request to attend a benefit fraud investigation interview, known as an ‘interview under caution’, which may be taped and used as evidence against you.
- You do not have to go to the interview under caution, but if you don’t, it may make it more difficult to explain facts and defend yourself if you are prosecuted. It is strongly advised that you do not attend an interview under caution on your own or without a professional legal adviser.
- You have a right to legal advice and having a lawyer present at the interview is not a sign that you are guilty.
- The authorities cannot force you to attend an interview under caution by doing things like suspending your benefit – if this happens you may be able to challenge this and should seek advice at the earliest opportunity.
- If you do attend the interview with a friend or relative, they have no right to help you. If you have special needs, you can ask for an ‘Appropriate Adult’ to attend the interview to help you, but you still need professional legal advice.
- Your solicitor may ask to see the evidence against you, so they can advise you properly.
- Depending on the case, your solicitor may advise you not to answer questions, or to submit a written statement explaining your version of events.
- The fraud investigator will ask questions to find out what you know about benefits and try to find out whether you believe what you did was wrong.
- You may leave the interview at any time, for example to get advice.
- After the interview a decision will be made as to whether you should be prosecuted.
- You have one month in which to appeal against an overpayment or stopping of benefits.
- If you agree to repay the money, you may still be prosecuted. Your solicitor can ask for your tribunal to be heard before the court case to establish the amount you owe.
- If you are being prosecuted, you must find a criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible to take on your case – preferably one experienced in defending benefit fraud cases.