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Social Security Fraud Act 2001


153.The report by Lord Grabiner concluded that very few offenders are punished. Prosecution in particular takes up large amounts of staff time, so the undoubted deterrent effect it has must be balanced against the high cost. Generally, it is used only in the more serious cases.

154.An administrative penalty, offered to a colluding employer as an alternative to prosecution, will provide a useful additional tool to target these cases. It will go some way to streamline the sometimes cumbersome prosecution process. In addition to rationalising management of the case, administering the penalty more swiftly following discovery of the offence should have a deterrent effect on the employer and others contemplating a similar offence.

155.The existing sanctions regime, which includes penalties as an alternative to prosecution for benefit claimants provides a precedent and many details of how such a scheme might work in practice are already established. These include offering penalties only in cases where prosecution is a viable alternative should the offender refuse to accept the penalty offer. The offer is made on the basis that, once it has been accepted, the Department will not then prosecute for that offence, subject to a 28-day cooling-off period during which the person is free to withdraw his acceptance.

156.The administrative penalty builds upon the report’s recommendations, which aim to deter and punish people who are working in the hidden economy. This is compatible with other Government policies, which aim to encourage people to move into a legitimate lifestyle.

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