HMA v MICHAEL FALCONER

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court Sheriff Crowe sentenced Michael Falconer to a 12 month Restriction of Liberty Order after he pled guilty to claiming Invalidity Benefit to which he was not entitled from 1 December 2003 to 19 March 2012 and obtaining a total of £32,272.50.

On sentencing Sheriff Crowe made the following statement in court:

12 December 2013

“This was a gross breach of trust to claim invalidity benefit when working full time. I accept that some years ago you were injured in an industrial accident and were registered as a blind person. I understand however that this did not affect your ability to hold down a job as a foreman and read documents and correspondence.

There are sentencing guidelines in place which were issued by the Appeal Court in 2010 which indicate that a fraud of this magnitude will normally be met with a prison sentence. I take into account your previous good record, the fact that you have been making repayments to the Department of Work and Pensions since the circumstances came to light and are able to make payment of a further £10,000 in the next few days. I also note that the Crown has raised confiscation proceedings against you which are likely to secure the full sum assuming that your house is sold and funds are applied to the amount outstanding.

Had the case proceeded to trial and no such payment been made a prison sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment would have been imposed. In the circumstances, including taking into account the early tendering of a plea of guilty and your vulnerability as a Registered Blind person in a prison setting I am prepared to impose a Restriction of Liberty order for 12 months with a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am each night. Your solicitor and the Crown have agreed to continue the confiscation proceedings until 12 March 2014 and I will review your Restriction of Liberty Order at that time to ensure that you are complying-bear in mind that it is a direct alternative to a prison sentence in view of the large amount of public money which was obtained by making false statements.”