Belfast Telegraph

Response from the Department for Communities:

It is important to note that the cases referred to are all suspected frauds only.

While a case may well be investigated and result in an overpayment, it does not necessarily follow that the same case will contain evidence sufficient to meet the test for prosecution and/or a conviction for fraud.

In terms of only one quarter of suspected fraud cases investigated resulting in a prosecution, a number of factors are important to note.

Depending on the financial level of the alleged fraud, the matter may be dealt with by way of a compliance visit or an administrative penalty, which still results in the irregularity being corrected and recovery of monies pursued.

Following investigation and review of the evidence, an investigation may not proceed due to a range of reasons such as:

A decision to proceed may be disproportionate to the level of the fraud involved, for example low value overpayments.

The evidence available may not meet the prosecution standard of public interest or reasonable prospect of a conviction.

If prosecuted but no conviction, the evidence available may not have met the criminal standard of proof beyond all reasonable doubt.

Other factors such as the offender being out of the jurisdiction, or a witness is unavailable.

In summary, many cases may contain an overpayment and have a suspicion of fraud, but that is a very different test to actual fraud with sufficient evidence to prove dishonesty.

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