Fraudsters who target vulnerable victims, such as the elderly, in England and Wales face harsher sentences, under new guidelines published by The Sentencing Council.
The new guidelines are likely to lead to increased sentences for those who leave victims badly affected as the Council has ensured that the impact on victims is central to how offenders should be sentenced.
Research commissioned by the Sentencing Council revealed that these crimes can mean far more than just financial loss - even losing quite a small sum can have a big impact on some victims. Individuals may suffer emotionally and psychologically, losing confidence in their ability to manage their financial affairs, as well as finding themselves in financial difficulties and having their credit rating damaged.
The new guidelines aim to ensure that the victim’s vulnerability is given due weight. If they are particularly vulnerable due to for example, age, or mental capacity, this will increase the seriousness of the offence and have a significant influence on the sentence the offender receives. This would apply for example to a cowboy builder who targets an elderly pensioner, convincing them to have unnecessary work done on their home at extortionate costs.
In 2012, 17,926 people were sentenced for fraud, which the council describes as a hugely varied offence that can affect "individuals, businesses, public money and charities".Fraud against individuals cost victims £9.1 billion in 2012-13.
Victims targeted by fraudsters lose "much more" than money, and that is why sentencing needs to be tougher, Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice said.
He continued: “Fraudsters are in it to make money, but for their victims it can mean much more than losing money. Our research with victims showed the great impact it can have on them, so the guideline puts this impact at the centre of considerations of what sentence the offender should get”
Wider effect on victims lives
City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard, who is the ACPO lead for Economic Crime, said: “The damage caused by fraud cannot just be measured in terms of pounds and pence lost. It can also have a much wider effect on victim’s lives, leaving them struggling to cope and come to terms with what has happened to them.
“It is encouraging that courts will be directed to take into account the full harm caused on an individual when it comes to punishing convicted fraudsters. Increased sentences can act as a deterrent to other offenders and provide victims with the peace of mind that justice has been properly served.”
For further information visit The Sentencing Council website.
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To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.