New sentencing guidelines proposed will lead to fraudsters who target vulnerable victims, such as the elderly, facing harsher sentences.
The guidelines focus on the harm caused to victims of fraud, money laundering and bribery, in addition to the monetary amounts involved. The old rules viewed the pain caused to victims only as an “aggravating factor”, the Sentencing Council said. Justice minister Jeremy Wright has welcomed the suggested change.
Builders Preying on the Elderly
The sentencing council cited unscrupulous builders praying on the elderly in a fraudulent manner as a type of crime when the new tougher guidelines could be used.
Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy said fraudsters “were only in it to make money” but victims were often affected in ways other than pure financial loss.
“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.”
In 2012, 17,926 people were sentenced for a variety of fraud involving the deception of individuals, businesses, public bodies and charities.
Frauds against individuals cost victims a total of £9.1bn during the financial year 2012-13. They included gangs targeting people using cash machines, cowboy builders who rip off vulnerable older people, identity fraud and internet offences such as phishing, fake online ticket sites and bogus dating and social media sites.
Jeremy Wright said:
“The upset and embarrassment of falling victim to con artists and fraudsters can often be at least as bad as the financial loss, and we welcome these guidelines which make sure courts will take that into account in future.”
The changes will also affect those convicted on money laundering with guidance including recommendations for those convicted of money laundering. The guidelines say the starting point for judges considering those convicted of handling more than £10m should be between four and 10 years in jail.
The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing. The courts must follow its guidelines “unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so”. Courts may depart from the guidelines but only in exceptional cases.