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Fraud Investigations - Civil penalty or prosecution?

Find out more about Fraud Investigations.

Civil penalty or prosecution?

Civil penalties

A civil penalty may apply if you are overpaid a benefit and:

  • you have negligently given incorrect information or evidence, and

  • you fail to take steps to rectify the error, and

  • the error causes an overpayment, or

  • you fail to provide information or evidence or fail to notify a change in your circumstances without a reasonable excuse.

You may be invited to pay a civil penalty as an alternative to criminal prosecution. This may apply if:

  • you have been overpaid benefit and this is recoverable from you, and

  • you caused the overpayment, and

  • there are grounds for prosecuting you for the offence.

How much is the penalty?

The minimum penalty is the greater of 50% of the amount overpaid or £350, with a maximum penalty of £2,000.

If I agree to the penalty, can I still be prosecuted?

No. The penalty is an alternative to prosecution. If you agree to the penalty, you must be allowed a short ‘cooling-off’ period to change your mind. You cannot avoid the penalty after that time. The cooling-off period is 14 days.

If I pay the penalty, do I still have to repay the overpayment?

Yes. If the overpayment was recoverable, it remains recoverable from you even if you pay the penalty.

If I do not agree to the penalty, will I be prosecuted?

Not necessarily. Although there must be grounds to prosecute before you can be offered a penalty, you will not necessarily be prosecuted if you do not agree. You should always seek specialist advice.

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