Stiffer penalties for fraudsters


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Fraudsters who target vulnerable victims, such as the elderly, could face more severe sentences under new guidelines.

Victims will be placed at the centre of new guidelines for fraud, money laundering and bribery, which may mean higher sentences for some offenders compared to current guidance, the Sentencing Council said.

Victim's vulnerability will be given due weight, the Council said, citing cases where unscrupulous builders target pensioners as an example.

Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy said: "Fraudsters are in it to make money, but for their victims it can mean much more than losing money.

"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 fraud, a hugely varied offence that can affect individuals, businesses, public money and charities.

Fraud against individuals cost victims £9.1 billion in 2012/13, the Council said.

It includes Ponzi schemes, gangs targeting people using cashpoints, cowboy builders who rip off vulnerable older people, identity fraud and internet offences like phishing, running fake online ticket sites and duping dating site and social media users.

Private sector fraud cost business £21.2 billion in 2012-13, while fraud targeting public money amounted to £20.6 billion.

In addition, fraud against the not-for-profit sector cost charities £147 million in the same period.

Previous guidelines for confidence fraud only refer to harm to victims as an aggravating factor, while the revamped guidance places victim impact at the centre of considerations for judges and magistrates.

The guideline will come into force in courts from October 1.

Justice Minister 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.

"Fraud is a serious crime and those who commit it should be properly punished, which is why Parliament has made tough sentences available to the judges, including 10-year prison sentences."