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Centrelink Fraud Cases

The courts have commented that in Centrelink fraud cases, a jail sentence is to be imposed unless there exists very special circumstances justifying some lesser order. The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in McGuiness v R [2008] NSWCCA 80 qualified that general rule to matters dealt with in the District Court or higher. Bell, Simpson and Rothman JJ said [at 44]:

The circumstances in which persons, including those of prior good character, dealt with on indictment for social security fraud over a sustained period will avoid the imposition of a sentence of fulltime custody are rare.

The general rule does not mean you will automatically be sentenced to prison if you are found guilty of a Centrelink offence. It is still the case that only the most serious offenders, and usually those dealt with in the District Court, are sentenced to full-time imprisonment. The court has a number of sentencing options, including suspending a sentence of imprisonment, imposing a Community Service Order, imposing a fine, or placing you on a good behaviour order.

If you are convicted of a Centrelink offence, the penalty you receive will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • whether you have been before a Court before;
  • the amount overpaid and the period of the offending;
  • whether you plead guilty or not guilty;
  • your conduct, for example whether there were any false statements or attempts to conceal the offending;
  • whether you have paid any of the money back;
  • your personal circumstances and whether there were any extenuating circumstance at the time of offending.

In particular circumstances, although the court has found the offence proven, the court may be persuaded not to record a conviction under Section 19B of the Crimes Act 1914. However this is usually only the case in circumstances where the offending falls towards the lower end of objective seriousness and the offender is someone of prior good character.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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