W. J. Bailhache, Q.C., Deputy Bailiff, and Jurats Clapham and Olsen.
The Attorney General
George Andrew McLoughlin
Sentencing by the Inferior Number of the Royal Court, following a guilty plea to the following charge:
1 count of:
Withholding material information from the Social Security Department, contrary to Article 16(a) of the Income Support (Jersey) Law 2007 (Count 1).
Details of Offence:
Between January 2008 and December 2010 the defendant's family wrongfully received £60,053 in benefits while he concealed his 100% beneficial ownership of three import/export businesses.
Customs records demonstrated that the three businesses made sales of over £750,000 in 2010 alone. On the basis of the defendant's own accounts the Department calculated his personal income to be between £29,000 and £83,000 per annum during the relevant period. In addition the company repaid debts, reducing his liability as guarantor, purchased his personal company car for £56,000 and paid for its running costs.
The defendant lied extensively in interview, produced incomplete documentation, and attempted to re-structure the businesses immediately after the interview so as to evade investigators and prolong the deception.
Details of Mitigation:
No relevant convictions in the last 19 years; supportive of his estranged wife and their four children; pleaded guilty on Indictment; assessed at low risk of reoffending; proprietor of a business with employees.
Handling stolen goods in 1993.
3 years' imprisonment.
Compensation Order sought in the amount of £60,053.33 to be paid within 12 months of release from prison.
Sentence and Observations of Court:
Benefit fraud is offensive to ordinary islanders who make their due contributions and claim legitimate benefits. The statutory 7 year maximum sentence reflects the seriousness with which the legislature views it.
3 years' imprisonment.
Compensation Order made in the amount of £60,053.33 to be paid within 12 months from today's date or 18 months' imprisonment, consecutive in default.
D. J. Hopwood, Esq., Crown Advocate.
Advocate J. W. R. Bell for the Defendant.
THE DEPUTY BAILIFF:
1. You are here to be sentenced on an Indictment where you are charged with withholding material information from the Social Security Department between 28th January, 2008, and 7th December, 2010, as a result of which it is accepted that you obtained the sum of £60,053.33, by way of income support, to which you were not entitled.
2. The maximum sentence which the legislature have imposed for this offence is 7 years' imprisonment, and that shows the seriousness with which the legislature charges the Court to view offences of this kind.
3. In the case of AG-v-Couillard  JRC 179A, in September last year, the Court said:-
"2 Benefit fraud is offensive. Most islanders pay what they should pay into the funds which the Island needs, and claim what they should claim; and it is when people step outside those arrangements that the contract which the government makes with the citizens of the Island, falls down. People no longer feel confident about the money that they pay in if they think their money is being abused, and (had you) broken into somebody's house and stolen this sum of money, there is no question that the Court would have looked at it very seriously indeed and been looking at a custodial sentence. Cheating the public is really no different in principle"
And in that case a custodial sentence was inevitable. The Court has subsequently said that in the use of the expression "Benefit fraud is offensive" it is offensive to all those who can afford to pay and do pay their contributions, and it is equally offensive to all those who cannot very much afford to pay, who struggle to pay, and yet pay their contributions and do not break the law by claiming the amounts which they should not claim.
4. In your case we have heard a mitigation address from your counsel which reflects, no doubt, the instructions which you have given. The Court's view is that while it is right to give you credit for your guilty plea and for your family circumstances and we treat you as being of good character, notwithstanding the fact that you do not appear to have made social security contributions in relation to employees. Nonetheless this was deeply dishonest conduct; £60,000 has been stolen from the public over a period of three years; it was probably dishonest from the outset. I say probably, we sentence you on the basis that it may well have been but we think it probably was, and there is no doubt at all that you lied to the Social Security Department on investigation.
5. In our view the Crown have got it exactly right and the conclusions of 3 years' imprisonment for this offence are granted.
6. In addition, it is quite clear that you have been running a business successfully for some time. The Court makes a Compensation Order in the sum of £60,053.33 and in default of that money being repaid to the Social Security Department, you will serve an additional sentence of 18 months' imprisonment, so it is to be consecutive. It is payable within 12 months of today. I say today because the Court expects arrangements to be made in relation to the business to ensure that that money is paid. You have, as your counsel will tell you, the ability to apply to the Court for this Compensation Order to be reviewed if it should become impossible for you to make repayment. I tell you now that that application will have to be supported by complete, full and frank disclosure, because the Court is not currently satisfied that anything that has been said to it through counsel can be believed.
Whelan as Aspects on Sentencing in the Superior Courts of Jersey 3rd Edition