We have reported on a number of social housing fraud convictions in this blog, and along with unlawful profit and costs orders the court may consider making a compensation order . For example, a £45,000 compensation order was made in a sub-letting case reported in the Islington Gazette (and here) in April 2018.
In the same month, a former housing officer was ordered to pay £20,000 to his erstwhile employers, after receiving a 3-year sentence in 2016 “after admitting fraud offences relating to social housing applications and job references”.
When it comes to profits from a housing fraud, if a person is convicted of an offence under either sections 1 or 2 of the Prevention of Social Fraud Act 2013 the court must decide whether to make an unlawful profit order. An unlawful profit order can be made instead of or in addition to an order under the court’s sentencing powers (see section 4(1) and (2) of the 2013 Act).
If a court decides not to make an unlawful profit order, section 4(4) of the 2013 Act states that it must give reasons for that decision when passing sentence.
As for questions of loss and compensation orders, the criminal court must consider this in any case where personal injury, loss or damage has resulted from the offence, and the court must also (as with the unlawful profit order) give reasons if it decides not to order compensation.
And so section 130 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 provides:
“(1) A court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence, instead of or in addition to dealing with him in any other way, may, on application or otherwise, make an order (in this Act referred to as a “compensation order”) requiring him—
(a) to pay compensation for any personal injury, loss or damage resulting from that offence or any other offence which is taken into consideration by the court in determining sentence; or
(b) to make payments for funeral expenses or bereavement in respect of a death resulting from any such offence, other than a death due to an accident arising out of the presence of a motor vehicle on a road;
but this is subject to the following provisions of this section and to section 131 below.”
There are some salient points to remember about such orders:
1. They are ordered by the criminal courts following a conviction, and in a housing fraud case may be made, for example, where the local authority ‘victim’ has been put to the expense of putting a household in temporary accommodation because the defendant has wrongly been allocated housing due to their misrepresentation.
2. No upper limit applies to those aged 18 or over (see s. 131 of the 2000 Act, which limits the amount to no more than £5000) though the amount of loss to the victim, such as the social landlord, is the matter being compensated. Continue reading “Compensation Orders – an introduction”