Sentencing Council
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Council Consults on Sentencing Guideline for Fraud Offences.

Fraudsters who use stolen identities to carry out their crimes should face severe sentences – the Sentencing Guidelines Council recommends today in a consultation guideline on fraud offences.

Using the identities of living persons can cause emotional distress for individuals who face the potentially stressful problems of untangling the financial consequences of fraud while using those of people who have died causes considerable stress to relatives and demonstrates more detailed planning of offences, the Council advises.

Sentencers are also advised to give heavier sentences to fraudsters and tricksters who prey on vulnerable victims. The guideline highlights the cases of victims of advance fee cons, which defraud individuals with promises of prizes or windfalls.

“It is a feature of some advance fee frauds that victims are targeted using ‘sucker lists’ of people who have previously fallen victim to scams. An offender who uses a ‘sucker list’ will have planned the offence and deliberately targeted vulnerable victims; therefore he or she has a higher level of culpability,” the guideline advises.

The guideline will provide comprehensive advice on a wide range of statutory offences including new offences introduced by the Fraud Act 2006 which provides for maximum sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment. The consultation guideline has been drafted in the context of that statutory maximum.
To encourage a consistent approach to sentencing the offences are grouped by types of fraud rather than by the specific offence of which a person is convicted: confidence fraud, possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud, fraud against HM Revenue and Customs, benefit fraud and banking and insurance fraud, including obtaining credit through fraud.

The guideline does not include the common law offence of cheating the public revenue which is generally reserved for the most serious offences and where a sentence in excess of the statutory maximum for other offences would be proper, or those cases where offenders are convicted of conspiracy to defraud.

The proposed approach to sentencing takes into account the fact that other sanctions and orders – such as confiscation and compensation – are likely to be applied, sometimes mandatory, which may have a significant impact on an offender. However, offenders convicted of benefit fraud will be expected to repay the sums defrauded; this is a separate process.

The proposed guideline also reflects the prevalence of benefit, payment card and bank frauds and the need to incorporate a deterrent element. In line with Council practice the starting points and ranges proposed for sentences are based on cases involving a first time offender who pleads not guilty.

Sentencers are given advice on dealing with computer techniques used by fraudsters. The Council recommends that these activities should be treated as making articles for use in fraud for which the sentencing range is between two and seven years custody for an extensive and skilfully planned fraud.

Council member, Sir Christopher Pitchford said: “Fraud is not a victimless crime. Economic crime, including the bills for detection and prosecution is a huge burden on the economy.

“It is not just financial institutions that are targeted; individuals can lose their businesses and their life savings. Fraud can be used to fund organised crime.
“Offenders are using ever more sophisticated ways to commit fraud and this guideline offers advice to sentencers on the use of computers and technology to create and disseminate articles for use in fraud. For the most extensive such frauds, the Council proposes a starting point of 4 years in custody.”

Notes to editors:

The consultation guideline is available on the SGC website ( along with:

• a copy of a covering letter being sent to the Council’s consultees, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and the Justice Select Committee;
• advice to the Council from the Sentencing Advisory Panel.

Printed copies may be obtained from: the Sentencing Guidelines Secretariat, 4th Floor, 8-10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE (tel: 020 7084 8130).

Further information about the Council and Panel can be found at

For further information about this press release and the guidelines, please contact the secretariat on 020 7084 8130 or 07515 359793.

The consultation closes on Friday 15 May 2009.

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