Benefit fraudster wants to choose his community service


When the Department of Work and Pensions successfully prosecutes a benefit fraud case, it is down to the court to decide on sentencing. From the case studies we have reported in recent months, readers will have noticed that a custodial sentence is always a possibility, but for those with an otherwise good history and no other convictions, a suspended sentence is the more common outcome. Often, a court will also order the defendant to undertake a set number of hours of unpaid work.

This was the result of a trial that was heard at the Old Bailey last month, relating to a 64 year old who falsely claimed £28,000 and failed to disclose more than £80,000 in savings. The unusual part was that he only agreed to do the community service if it was “light work.”

30 years out of work

Abdul Jalil arrived in the UK in 1969 as a teenager. Despite having lived here for almost 50 years, he has picked up only a few words of English and is unable to read or write. He has been unable to work since 1988 due to ill health and has been claiming income support since 1999.

So far so good – although it might seem strange to have lived in a country for almost 50 years and not learned the language, there is no law against that, and anyone who has seen the English-speaking communities in countries across the world will know that this is particularly common among British ex-pats.

Mr Jalil’s claim was initially a genuine one. The problem emerged when he was sent a review form in 2012, on which he indicated that he had only £50. In fact, the court heard that he had more than £86,000 in the bank.

Right to buy

It appears that Mr Jalil borrowed £25,000 from a family member so that he could buy his council house in Moorgate. He then remortgaged the property for around £150,000. Some of the money he passed to his children, to allow them to put down deposits on properties of their own, and he retained £86,000 for himself.

The judge acknowledged that Mr Jalil’s claim was genuine at the outset, and that the fraud was perpetrated when he failed to disclose a change in his personal circumstances to the DWP. As a result, he claimed a total of £28,771 to which he was not entitled, over a period of eight years.

Sentencing decision

The judge informed Mr Jalil that according to sentencing guidelines, a crime of this severity attracts a custodial sentence of between nine and 36 months. The judge acknowledged that Mr Jalil had been motivated by a desire to help his children, and had probably faced a degree of pressure from them to do what he did. He also acknowledged his crime and said he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions.

Mr Jalil was handed a 24 week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work. He accepted the decision, but commented via an interpreter that he would only be able to do this if it was “light work” due to mobility problems – although his probation officer said that beyond a slightly tender knee, Mr Jalil had no known health issues.

This is a case in which the defendant was arguably fortunate not to receive harsher sentencing, so you might feel that attempting to choose his community work was a case of pushing his luck – as ever, we’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave them below.

One thing that seems certain is that there was more to this case than met the eye. From the comments of the judge, it seems likely that the pressure from Mr Jalil’s children was significant, and that given his lack of literacy, there is a good chance he had little knowledge of what he was signing. Of course, to the DWP, that doesn’t matter at all, and they will prosecute any allegation of fraud to its conclusion.

At Hylton Potts, we know that cases like this are seldom clear cut. We don’t judge, so if you are facing an investigation by the DWP, get in touch, and rest assured that we will be on your side to see the matter to the best possible outcome. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or, alternatively, you can email us at law@hylton-potts.com.