The law around fraud and articles for use in fraud can seem strange and inaccessible which means anyone under investigation should always seek the advice of specialist fraud defence lawyers to help guide them through.
A person can be guilty of an offence if they possess or have under their control any article for use in or in connection with any fraud. ‘Articles' simply means 'items'. An item could be a piece of technical equipment, such as a device for making credit cards, a computer loaded with software used in an email ‘phishing' scam, or even a fake national insurance card. This means that it is not just the person on the front line committing the fraud who is guilty, but anyone who possesses any of the items used, or destined for use, in the fraud.
'Items' can also include documents and data on computers - so personal details of fraud victims (credit card details/NI numbers), or fake identification used to access funds illegally could be caught by this law. Even a fake uniform used to gain access to premises where a fraud then takes place could be an ‘item' in this sense.
However, it is not just handling or possessing such items which can result in a conviction. The prosecution must prove that the person intended that they or someone else use the item. If someone has a friend's credit card details but does not intend to use them for any illegal purpose, then they cannot be guilty of an offence.
It is vital that the specialist fraud defence lawyers understand the client's knowledge of and intention for each article they are accused of possessing for the alleged use in fraud.
Making, Adapting, Supplying Articles
As well as it being an offence to possess articles for use in fraud there is another offence of making, adapting, supplying or offering to supply an article for use in fraud. This criminalises anyone who is involved in the manufacture of these items, and anyone who deals in them. This can include people who write software to help them hack into financial databases, or people make skimming devices for use in credit card fraud. It can also include people who trade in such devices and software.
The prosecution have to prove not just that the person was involved in making or supplying the items in question. The jury have to be sure that the person either knew that it was designed or intended for a fraudulent purpose
The key to any successful defence is preparation. This means working through the material with your fraud defence lawyers so that when the case finally gets to court your barrister can help the jury to understand what the items are and what intention you may have had.
Sentences for Possession or Control of Articles
In cases where the fraud that the item is to be used for is serious and well planned, sentences of 6 weeks up to two years in prison are typical, although non-custodial sentences are often possible. In a less well planned or less serious fraud, a community order or short prison sentence is the norm. Remember that any sentence of 2 years or less can be suspended. Specialist fraud defence lawyers can help you to understand what is needed to help argue the case for a suspended sentence.
Sentences for Making, adapting, supplying etc. Articles
In cases where the fraud that the item is to be used for is serious and well planned, sentences of 2-7 years are possible. In a less well planned or less serious fraud, a high-level community order up to a 2 year prison sentence is possible.
The length of sentence will generally depend on the following:
How much money was to be gained.
How much the victims would lose, and
Whether the victims were vulnerable
Whether the offender was a major or minor player
Personal mitigation of the defendant
Given the often complex nature of these cases and the potentially serious consequences of a conviction, it is important to seek free legal advice from a specialist fraud lawyer as soon as possible.