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Social Security Benefits: Fraud

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures are taken to ensure that fines imposed for benefit fraud in Northern Ireland are paid. (119344)

Any fine imposed by a court will result in a fine notice being issued to the defendant, stipulating a period of time to pay and giving the defendant the opportunity to apply to the court for further time to pay or for an order to pay by instalments. The notice will also include a warning that non-payment will result in the issue of a warrant committing the defendant to prison and additional costs attendant upon such issue.

If payment is not received within the period allowed, a “Warrant of Commitment for Sum Adjudged to be paid by Conviction” will be automatically issued to PSNI to either collect the money or lodge the defendant in HM Prison/YOC.

Warrants are registered and sent to the District Command Unit in which the defendant is believed to reside. Management of the execution process varies across District Command Units according to available resources and competing operational demands. While the execution of some warrants will not present difficulties, others may be problematic and will necessitate a more determined effort by police.

Although not an exhaustive list, the following enquiries should be carried out:

Personal calls to the address shown on the warrant at different times of the day and days of the week.

Enquiries with neighbours, friends and family where appropriate.

Checks on ICIS and PPS Case Prep.

Enquiries with local Criminal Intelligence Officer.

Enquiries with Criminal Intelligence Officer at previous address/address last proceeded against where appropriate.

Enquiries with previous investigating officers where applicable.

All actions are logged on a warrant action sheet and attached to the warrant. This will be the original contemporaneous record of efforts made to execute the warrant. From a technical perspective, a new integrated IT application has been developed which will manage all warrants from their issue at court through to execution. This system, along with other measures under consideration, should lead to improved monitoring and accountability.