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Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2010

Section 32: Child support maintenance: offences relating to information

Section 32 amends Article 16A of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, which deals with offences relating to the provision of information.

Article 16A(3A) of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 currently provides that a person commits an offence if he or she fails to notify the Department of a change of address. Section 32(2) substitutes a new paragraph (3A), which extends this offence to a failure to report other changes of circumstances. These other changes of circumstances will be specified in regulations made under the provisions of Article 16(1) of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

Article 16A(2) of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 currently provides that it is an offence for a person to knowingly make a false statement or representation or knowingly provide, or cause or allow to be provided, a document or other information which is false. Section 32(3) adds a new paragraph (6) into Article 16A of the 1991 Order, setting the time limit for bringing such a case to 12 months from the date the false information was provided. Currently, Article 19(1)(a) of the Magistrates’ Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 limits the time in which a prosecution can be brought to 6 months. The amendment brings the time limits broadly in line with those for benefit fraud, and increases the likelihood of successful prosecutions under Article 16A(2) of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991 due to the increased time in which the offence can be discovered and investigated by the prosecutor.

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