Greater consistency is required in sentencing for fraud offences. That is the clear message set out in a consultation paper issued today by the Sentencing Advisory Panel.
Comprehensive guidelines are needed as few fraud offences are covered by existing guideline judgments and new offences were introduced by the Fraud Act 2006, which came into force on 15 January 2007.
Boundaries between the offences - both old and new - sometimes overlap and conduct may fall within more than one offence provision. In these circumstances, the Panel has based its proposals on the type of fraudulent behaviour rather than the particular offence that might have been charged.
To promote consistency in sentencing for similar types of fraudulent behaviour, the Panel is consulting on one comprehensive guideline for sentencing various frauds against institutions. These include tax fraud, benefit fraud, insurance fraud, bank account fraud and payment card fraud. Separate guidelines are proposed for ?confidence tricks? and also for possessing, making or supplying articles for use in fraud.
The consultation paper also discusses whether ancillary orders (including compensation orders and disqualification from acting as a company director) should be taken into account by the sentencing court when assessing whether the overall sentence is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.
The ancillary orders discussed in the consultation paper have a wide application and the Panel intends to develop a general principle applicable to all offences, concerning the degree to which such orders should influence the sentence imposed.
In view of the complexity of the issues covered in the fraud paper, the period of consultation has been extended from the normal 12 weeks to 16 weeks and will close on 6 December 2007.