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The maximum penalty for online bank fraud is 10 years’ imprisonment if convicted on indictment. There are other consequences of a conviction, such as a confiscation order. A specialist fraud solicitor can work to reduce this penalty, or even avoid a guilty verdict altogether.
Online Banking Fraud
If you have been accused of bank fraud in England or Wales, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We are dedicated fraud solicitors and can represent you throughout proceedings. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We hold a Legal Aid contract and provide free police station representation.
The Fraud Act 2006
Online bank fraud can take many forms, with some examples including mobile phone scams, email spam and mass marketing fraud. Whatever guise it takes, the definition of fraud remains the same: deceiving others with the intention of making a gain or a loss to others.
Because there can be such a variation in the nature of fraud, the Fraud Act 2006 has different Sections. This is relevant, because when you are charged with an offence, you are charged under a certain Section (or Sections) of the legislation. This dictates the maximum sentence available to the judge.
Section 1 creates a general offence of fraud and introduces three ways of committing it set out in Sections 2, 3 and 4. Section 2 is fraud by false representation. Section 3 is fraud by failure to disclose information when there is a legal duty to do so. And Section 4 is fraud by abuse of position. There are additional Sections, such as making or supplying articles for use in frauds (Section 7) and obtaining services dishonestly (Section 11).
As per the Fraud Act 2006, the maximum penalty for offences:
- Under Sections 1, 7 and 9 is 12 months’ imprisonment on summary conviction and 10 years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.
- Under Sections 6 and 11 is 12 months’ imprisonment on summary conviction and 5 years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.
Section 10 of the Act increases the maximum penalty for offences contrary to Section 458 of the Companies Act 1985 to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Summary conviction vs conviction on indictment
Therefore, the maximum penalty for fraud is between 12 months’ and 10 years’ imprisonment. Obviously, this is a huge sentencing range: it all depends on the offence and whether you are charged on a summary basis or on indictment.
Summary offences are more minor offences and are dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court. Occasionally, a summary offence is referred to the Crown Court, but only in very specific circumstances. Indictable offences are more serious offences and must be dealt with by the Crown Court. The case will begin at the Magistrates’ Court, as all criminal cases do. However, it will then be referred to the Crown Court. If the defendant pleads not guilty, there will be a trial in front of a judge or a judge and jury.
The penalties for indictable offences are more severe than those for summary offences. So, if you want to know what the maximum penalty is for fraud, you need to confirm whether you are being charged with a summary offence or an indictable offence. The maximum penalty is:
- 12 months’ imprisonment for a summary conviction
- Between five and 10 years’ imprisonment for a conviction on indictment
How does a judge decide a sentence?
However, you must remember that these are the maximum sentences available. If you are found guilty of fraud, it does not necessarily mean that you will get the maximum punishment available. Instead, the judge looks at a range of factors and determines an appropriate penalty in your particular case. The judge must refer to the Sentencing Guidelines when doing so. The Guidelines set out a sentencing range for each offence. The judge will then look at:
- The level of harm that was caused
- Your level of culpability, meaning your involvement
- Mitigating factors, such as genuine remorse and co-operation with the investigation
- Aggravating factors, such as previous convictions
Is it possible to reduce a sentence for online bank fraud with a guilty plea?
If you are charged with online bank fraud, you must decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
If you intend to plead guilty, then it is in your best interests to enter this plea at the earliest available opportunity. This is because a guilty plea can reduce a sentence by as much as one third. The justice system in England and Wales is keen to limit court costs and time-wasting. Defendants who enter an early guilty plea are rewarded with a reduced sentence.
However, the level of reduction is on a sliding scale. In other words, the later you enter a guilty plea, the smaller the reduction will be. On the other hand, the earlier you enter a guilty plea, the greater the reduction will be. For an indictable offence, an ‘early’ guilty plea would be the first hearing at the Magistrates’ Court.
This is something our fraud solicitors can discuss with you, when you contact us for a free initial enquiry.
What are the consequences of a fraud conviction?
As outlined above, being found guilty of fraud could lead to a prison sentence of between 12 months and 10 years. There are also other penalties available to the court. In particular, a judge can make an ancillary order. This is an official ruling from the judge, ordering you to do/not do a specified action. With regard to fraud, some common ancillary orders are:
- Restraint Orders – which freeze assets (these are very different from Restraining Orders, which are used in domestic violence cases)
- Reparation Orders – which require the offender to complete agreed activities for the benefit of the victim or the community
- Confiscation Orders – which is when assets gained via illegal means are confiscated by the authorities
Those who were acting as a company director may also face director disqualification proceedings.
Payment of costs and victim surcharges
A guilty conviction may also result in other financial penalties. For example, the offender may be asked to meet some of the costs involved in the investigation. This includes the costs of the prosecutor. The offender may also have to pay a victim surcharge. This is a fee ranging from £20 to £70 (although this range is under review and may change in the future). It goes towards a fund for victims, who are then compensated for their damages.
Will fraud stay on my criminal record?
Criminal convictions are put on your criminal record. Your criminal record is added to a national information database. It remains on this database until the conviction is ‘spent’. This is the length of the prison sentence plus a certain number of years. Only when the conviction is spent can it be removed from the database. If an adult is sent to prison for fraud for more than four years, then the sentence is never spent. If an adult is sent to prison for fraud for less than six months, the sentence is spent after the sentence length plus two years.
Online banking fraud – a serious offence
If you have been accused of online banking fraud, we strongly encourage you to contact us. Online banking fraud is a serious offence that carries heavy penalties upon conviction. This is evidenced by a case reported in May 2020 by the CPS, in which two men were found guilty of money laundering and fraud offences. The pair had used ‘cash-out’ pages on social media to move small amounts of money into their own accounts. The victims thought they were paying for goods or services. They took more than £2 million from online customers. One man was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and the other five years and nine months’ imprisonment.
Due to the severity of the penalties, it is in your best interests to hire a specialist fraud solicitor. At Ashmans, we have built a reputation as a leading criminal fraud defence practice. We also hold a Legal Aid contract with the Legal Services Commission. Thanks to our expertise, we know how to handle a fraud case to secure the best possible outcome. We can help you too. My bank account is under investigation what should I do?
Why choose Ashmans fraud solicitors?
- We have specialist fraud defence solicitors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter when you need us, we can be there to give you the expert advice you need.
- Once you have instructed us, we will select an experienced barrister. We will arrange a conference with them so you can be clear about your prospects
- Ashmans Solicitors has built a reputation as a leading criminal fraud defence practice. We can put all of our experience behind you and make sure that we get you the best possible outcome.
- We have nationwide coverage, so it doesn’t matter where you are in England or Wales.
- We are meticulous and do not leave any stone unturned when preparing your case. We will find anything which may mitigate your charges and help your case.
- We can reduce the impact of Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) proceedings following a conviction for fraud.