Safiya is a Paralegal at Deo Volente Solicitors
The worst thing you can do if being invited to attend an interview in relation to benefit fraud is ignore it. Essentially the relevant authority, whether it be the Department for Work and Pensions, Job Centre, Social Housing, are giving you an opportunity to put forward an explanation for the allegations they have made against you before deciding whether to initiate court proceedings.
Fraud isn’t a minor offence, with the courts having the power to imprison you for up to 10 years. Being invited to an interview is not something you can avoid or can pretend isn’t happening; it is something you need to address at the earliest opportunity.
In most cases you will be ‘invited’ to attend a ‘voluntary’ interview and be told that you can ‘choose’ to bring a legal representative if you would like to. These particular words make the whole process seem very informal and casual. In reality, you will generally be interviewed on tape under caution meaning that anything you say in the interview can be used in court should the authority pursue a prosecution and/or anything you don’t say may harm your defence if you haven’t mentioned it in your interview but go on to mention it in court.
We find that the most overwhelming thing for interviewees is the volume of paperwork produced as evidence before them and the realisation that the authorities have been able to delve into your bank accounts going back a considerable amount of years, access CCTV showing your movements at various locations and carry out checks on you with numerous services you use eg. insurance providers, gym memberships, schools your children attend etc.
Attending these interviews alone cannot only be daunting, but you are essentially thrown in at the deep end going straight into the interview to start being questioned. One of the advantages to taking a legal representative is ‘disclosure’. Before your interview commences your legal representative is able to request that the interviewing officer tells them what they want to interview about. In most cases, the interviewing officer will disclose this information which will enable your legal representative to relay that information to you and consequently advise you. It means that you go into your interview feeling more prepared and less overwhelmed.
Our advice; do not go to interviews alone, always take a legal representative. Our experienced team in these matters at Deo Volente Solicitors are on hand at all times to accompany you.