David Rose was a part-time rugby referee for the Premiership and full-time Head of Development for Women’s Rugby for the RFU. Sadly, he lost the full-time job. As a result, he claimed Job Seekers Allowance.
We don’t have the exact details (what we do have comes from here) but it appears that Mr Rose would have had to fill out a form (as you’d expect for anything to do with the government) and he would have been asked a question along the lines of “are you working” or “do you have any other source of income“.
To this, we can surmise, he answered no. This would have been incorrect as he was still earning from his job as a rugby referee. In due course he was charged with ‘benefit fraud’, to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 12 month Conditional Discharge and ordered to pay £700 in costs. And presumably a Victim Surcharge, but this wasn’t reported.
What was the charge?
Hmm. We’d have to say that it is not clear. In the news report it is described as “giving false information for obtaining benefits“. This looks like it should be an offence under s112 Social Security Administration Act 1992 – this statute has been heavily amended, but reads like this still for this offence.
The problem with this is that Mr Rose was sentenced in the Crown Court and the s112 offence is summary only, so can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court.
What we think has happened is that Mr Rose was charged with a similar offence, but under s111A of the Act (see page 71) which is basically the same as the s112 offence, but with added dishonesty – thus making it more serious.
If we are right, then in the Crown Court the case may have been looked at and it was decided that Ms Rose knowingly, but not dishonestly, furnished the false information, and so the plea to the s112 offence was taken. Whether this is lawful is doubtful.
But, of course, we don’t know. The reason why say this is due to the relatively short period of time, and the fact that Mr Rose came off JSA as soon as he got a job, would all point to it not being dishonest.
You may think that the sentence would give us some clue, but when you look at the guidelines, there’s not much help …
If this is the s111 offence, then the Sentencing Guidelines for Fraud apply. This is in the 5th column and 4th row and we can see that the sentence was perhaps below what would be expected.
With the s112 offence, the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines apply (look at page 107). This doesn’t actually give a different sentence to the s111 offence.
Why is Mr Rose guilty?
We are told that “Sam Jones, defending Rose, told the court his client had made a “genuine mistake”. If that’s true, why is he guilty?
The law requires that he ‘knowingly’ gives false information. How does that square with it being a ‘genuine mistake’?
Again, all we know is the short extract from the news report above. It may well be that this is mis-reporting, or was taken out of context. Rest assured, a genuine mistake very rarely gives rise to criminal liability, and wouldn’t’ve done in this case.