So turns out the job center made a mistake and were paying me my esa when they shouldn't have been. I got a job on an 8 hour contract and when I started doing more hours I phoned them and spoke to a women who had no idea what she was doing and she told me that because I'm on the same contract I can still keep my claim and get my money. Any a year later I get a letter saying I've been over paid £5200 and they suspect I've frauded them. I got a letter for an interview under caution and I went to it and explained not very well because of my anxiety what happend. Anyway today I got a letter summoning me to a magistrates court in a few weeks. What do I do? Do I plead guilty just so I can get it over with or do I fight it. I have no proof I rang up because apparently my phone call isn't logged 'go figure'. I can't afford a solicitor I'm only 21. I've never been in trouble with the police. I have a history of very bad mental health and I'm currently dealing with anxiety to which you've guessed is super bad right now? So any advice to a clueless 21 year old.
It is worth checking to see if you qualify for legal aid. Find a solicitor that does legal aid criminal work and they will be able to advise on whether or not you qualify. If you don't qualify for legal aid you should ask to speak to the duty solicitor at the magistrate's court. They will be able to give you advice and may be able to represent you. It won't cost you anything.
Definitely don't plead guilty if you're not guilty. I know it's stressful but you didn't realise they were making a mistake. And you gave them correct information all the way along. Get as much advice as you can from a solicitor or someone qualified to help..
Can you get a hold of your phone record showing that you made a call to them at the time that you increased your hours? If you can prove that you spoke to them when you said you did then it would be on them to prove that you didn't call to notify them of your change in circumstances. I would strongly suggest getting some legal advice. Most universities have pro bono societies that provide free legal advice in situations like yours for example
The amount (£5,200) puts this offence in category 5 for sentencing purposes. Category 6 is the lowest category, so category 5 is only one above that. It sounds like culpability is either medium or lesser. If you are convicted the most likely outcome is community service. Prison is unlikely. If you can tell us exactly what the charge is I may be able to narrow it down further for you.
It says in the letter Obtaining for yourself a benefit, advantage or other payment, namely Employment and Support allowance, under relevant social security legislation dishonestly made a statement or representation to the Department for Work and Pensions which was false, namely in a benefit for you failed to disclose your true income, which exceeded permitted levels. Contrary to section 111A (1) (a) and (3) if the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
I'm so scared I have depression and anxiety and now my anxiety is through the roof.
Ok, this is a Section 111A offence. That means the starting point for sentencing purposes is a medium level community order if they decide it is medium culpability. If they decide it is lesser culpability the starting point is a low level community order. If it is lesser culpability you definitely won't get a prison sentence. Even if it is medium culpability, on the information you have posted here you won't go to prison. If you are convicted (and I hope you won't be) you will almost certainly end up with a community service order and there is a small possibility that you may get away with just a fine.
I agree with OutToGetYou that talking to the CAB may help.
A community service order will require you to do a number of hours unpaid work. For a low level community order it is 40-80 hours, a medium level community order is 80-150 hours. The work is something of benefit to the community such as clearing wasteland, removing graffiti or decorating a public place or building. That is not an exhaustive list. The order may also include other requirements such as a curfew or attending some kind of course to help with rehabilitation.
I'm sorry but, if you are convicted, you won't get to choose. You aren't offered a set of options. The court will simply impose whatever punishment they deem appropriate within the sentencing guidelines. However, if you are working any community service will be arranged to take place outside your working hours, e.g. evenings and/or weekends. As far as possible it will be arranged to avoid interfering with your work, religious and family commitments.
Can you get a hold of your phone record showing that you made a call to them at the time that you increased your hours? If you can prove that you spoke to them when you said you did then it would be on them to prove that you didn't call to notify them of your change in circumstances.
^ this ^ show the court that you phoned them. If they say that there is no log of the call, when it is clear that you did in fact phone them and you can prove that a phone call was made by you, then it shows that there is a big discrepancy within their system.
When my wife was on tax credits (before we were married) she made sure all communication with the DWP and HMRC was in writing for exactly this reason. It didn't stop them sending her notice of legal proceedings some time after she had stopped receiving benefits, claiming that she owed them money due to an overpayment. The fact she had all correspondence was a great help. We were able to point out to them that, on their own calculations, they owed her money rather than the other way around. We never heard anything from them again.
I'd just like to thank everyone who has commented and helped me with this matter. I went to my court hearing today I've only been give a £105 fine. I did plead guilty even though it wasn't my fault and I explained to them everything that happened and they understood everything. I took on all of your advice and it helped me tremendously. Thankyou