Centrelink fraud offences are some of the more frequently prosecuted matters by the Commonwealth prosecution (“CDPP”). Centrelink Fraud offences are considered very serious and carry a range of penalties, including imprisonment. It is important that you seek advice from an experienced Centrelink Fraud lawyer if you receive any notifications that you are being investigated. 

The types of conduct that may lead to Centrelink Fraud charges include:

Under declaring your income or falsely reporting that you are earning no income;
Applying for a benefit under a false name; and
Failing to inform Centrelink of your personal circumstances that are relevant to any benefits you receive (for example saying you are single when in receipt of a Single Parent benefit when you are, in fact, in a relationship).

Centrelink may detect offending through thorough investigations and have the power to obtain and cross check information from a variety of sources, including the Australian Tax Office and other government departments such as immigration authorities, banks and your employer. 

Most Centrelink Fraud offences require the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that what you did was intentional and done knowing that the result would be Centrelink paying you more money than you are entitled to.  

In some cases, you might receive a Notice of Overpayment from Centrelink that says you have been paid a benefit that you are not entitled to and you may be asked to repay the money within a certain timeframe. Whether or not you repay the money, Centrelink may still decide to investigate further and refer the matter to the CDPP for prosecution. 

You may also be asked to participate in an interview regarding the overpayment for the purpose of Centrelink determining whether you have acted in a fraudulent manner. Prior to participating in an interview of any kind, you should seek advice from a Centrelink Fraud lawyer about the consequences of answering any questions. It is important to note that any information you provide to Centrelink can be used against you in a potential prosecution. 

If you are served with paperwork requiring you to attend Court for Centrelink offences, you should contact a Centrelink Fraud lawyer immediately to get advice about the charge, whether there are any defences open to you, what the consequences of pleading guilty might be and what you can do to mitigate any sentence. 

Our Centrelink Fraud Lawyers are available to assist you whether you have received a Notice of Overpayment, or you are facing charges in court. Please call us on (08) 9500 8915 if you need advice about Centrelink Fraud charges.


Centrelink Cases In Perth

M pleaded guilty to falsely declaring that she had not earnt any income and under declaring what she earnt. She received 55 payments that she was not entitled to and 19 payments that she was only partially entitled to. At times, she declared her earnings were under 10 per cent of her actual income. 
The amount of benefits paid that she was not entitled to was about $40,000. She was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment, after which she would be eligible for release on a good behaviour bond. 

R pleaded guilty to failing to declare an income while receiving a single parenting payment for about two years. She received just under $30,000 of payments she was not entitled to and had been prosecuted for similar offending previously. The offending was discovered through cross matching data between the ATO and Centrelink. R was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 2 months, after which she would serve a 12 month good behaviour bond. 

J pleaded guilty to claiming benefits under a false name, failing to inform Centrelink of her true personal circumstances about her marital status and living situation. She received about $65,000 of payments over 8 years. She fully repaid the debt prior to sentencing but was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.

N pleaded guilty to claiming the Single Parent benefit for more than 9 years and receiving about $123,000 in benefits she was not entitled to, and not disclosing significant savings in hidden bank accounts. She was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 9 months, to be followed by a good behaviour bond. 

 

There are a range of drug related charges, including possession, selling, supplying, trafficking, cultivating, importing and manufacturing. Depending on the amount of the drug, and the type of drug, the penalties can range from a small fine, all the way up to life imprisonment. There can also be further consequences if you are declared a drug trafficker, as your property may be confiscated.

The most common types of drugs our Perth drug lawyers deal with include, but are not limited to, methylamphetamine, cannabis, MDMA and cocaine.

If you are charged with possessing, selling, supplying, trafficking, cultivating, importing or manufacturing prohibited drugs, you can contact our drug lawyers to seek advice and representation.

There are particular amounts listed in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, which sets out whether there will be a presumption that you intended to sell or supply the drug, whether you are a drug trafficker, and which court your matter will ultimately be heard in.

For example, with methylamphetamine, if you are found in possession of 2 grams and above, it will be presumed that you intended to sell or supply the drug. If you are found in possession of 4 grams and above, the matter will be heard in the higher court, being the District Court. If you are found in possession of 28 grams or above, upon conviction, you will be declared a drug trafficker, which enables the State to confiscate your property and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Our drug lawyers will be able to advise you on which court your matter will be heard in, the maximum penalty available, the likely penalty for your matter based on past experience and case law, what to do to mitigate your circumstances if you are pleading guilty, and advising you on the evidence and your prospects of success if you are pleading not guilty.

Our drug lawyers can undertake negotiations on your behalf if deemed suitable, such as to downgrade a charge, or to make a plea offer.

If your matter is lower on the scale of seriousness, and you have no prior convictions, you may wish to apply for a spent conviction so that the conviction does not appear on your police clearance, and so that you do not have to disclose the conviction to any current or potential employers. Our drug lawyers can represent you for a spent conviction application.

Our drug lawyers can assist you in obtaining a good sentencing outcome, or to assist you in defending the charge at trial. We have access to some of Perth’s best barristers should your matter call for it.

Our drug lawyers have represented clients with drug charges from before they were charged, whilst the police were at their home undertaking a search warrant, whilst at the police station being questioned, after being charged, for an application for bail, for negotiations to amend or downgrade the charge, for negotiations for a plea offer, for a plea of guilty and sentencing, and for a plea of not guilty and trial, and for appeals against conviction and sentence.

It is important to engage a drug lawyer at an early stage (preferably as soon as you are aware that the police want to question you) so that we can advise you of your rights and a way forward for your matter.

Sentences of immediate imprisonment can be quite common for charges involving the sale or supply of prohibited drugs, so it is important that you engage a drug lawyer in Perth to best represent you in court.

Our drug lawyers are available morning, noon and night to advise you, either face to face, over the phone, or by email. Speak to our Perth drug lawyers today on (08) 9500 8915 to discuss your drug charge.

Drink driving charges can fall into the low range, mid range, or high range categories. Depending on the blood alcohol content reading, and whether it is your first, second or subsequent offence, the penalties can range from a fine, to imprisonment, along with a licence disqualification. Drink driving is commonly colloquially referred to as a “DUI”.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1974, a low range offence is a blood alcohol content reading of between 0.05 grams up to 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100mL of blood.  A mid range offence is 0.08 grams up to 0.15 grams. A high range offence is 0.15 grams and above.

It is also an offence to refuse a breath test, and to be driving whilst under the influence of prohibited drugs.

Repeated high range offending or refusal of breath tests can lead to a permanent licence disqualification. This comes into play after a third offence.

A number of our clients have driven, when not realising they were over the legal limit. You may be over the legal limit even if you do not feel “tipsy” or “drunk”, and even if you have been counting your drinks, and eating and drinking water in between. The best way to avoid a DUI charge is to simply not drive if you are planning to drink or end up having an unplanned drink. Organise a designated driver, someone to pick you up, public transport, taxi or Uber to get you home safely. Your safety, and other road user safety are of the utmost importance.

Many people do not realise the importance of their driver’s licence until it is disqualified and they are no longer able to drive for a certain period of time. This can affect your employment, your finances, and your children, amongst other things.

If you have been charged with any type of DUI offence, you should obtain the advice of a DUI lawyer in Perth. The DUI lawyer will be able to advise you on the penalties available for the charge, and can represent you in court.

Our DUI lawyers can represent you for a plea of guilty, presenting a plea in mitigation on your behalf, in order to obtain the best possible result for you. Depending on which DUI range you fall into, the penalties can have minimum and maximum penalties specified, or only a minimum or a maximum penalty specified. Our DUI lawyers can also advise you on additional things you can do in mitigation, such as traffic offender courses and alcohol counselling.

Our DUI lawyers can also represent you for a plea of not guilty, should you wish to challenge the charge.

Siobhan Blake, Law student at Chambers Legal, recently completed a placement at Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison as part of her University Law Degree. She has prepared the below paper from her time at Wandoo.
 
The Change we Need in the Australian Prison System: Therapeutic Community Rehabilitation

The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel presented a lecture on Ethics and the Profession of the Lawyer to the Queensland Law Society in 2010, stating:

‘All lawyers must have a strong moral and ethical sense to be right-thinking. An ethical lawyer is not just one who has an awareness of a Code of Conduct and what may constitute a breach of that Code. A guide to right conduct is provided by an understanding of the place of the profession in the legal system and therefore in society; an understanding not only of the duty to a client but to the court and to the public interest in the maintenance of a working legal system.’

Kiefel here, has highlighted the importance that must be placed on the strong moral compass of legal professionals. Ethical behaviour can not merely be reduced to the binding pages of the Code of Conduct under which we practice. As those working in the legal field, it is our duty to ensure that we can empathise with and ensure that those most vulnerable in our society have the best access to the law. As well as this, making changes where possible to reduce the way in which the law disproportionately effects marginalised groups. 

The University of Notre Dame requires all law students participating in the Ethics and the Law unit to complete a minimum 20 hours of service learning with an organisation that focuses on the welfare, advocacy and empowerment of the individuals they represent. The service-learning component of this unit allows us, as future lawyers, to consider how we can make a difference in our professional field along with gaining real world experience of how everyday people may be impacted by the law. 

Though interning at Chambers Legal, I have developed a strong interest in Criminal Law. One could say that criminal defence really is the pinnacle of legal ethics. If individuals did not have adequate access to legal representation, the economic disparity between the State and Accused would be even greater than what it already is, especially for marginalised Australians. We have Dietrich v The Queen to thank for affording individuals adequate legal representation in the right to a fair trial. 

Furthermore, as a regional student I understand that living in a remote area has a direct impact on an individual’s access to the law. In addition to this, regional areas are experiencing an increasing rise in crime related to illicit drugs.

It is for these reason that in choosing my placement I wanted to work within an organisation that directly represented the struggles that marginalised people face in the justice system: namely regional women, Aboriginal Australians and youth. 

Statistically Speaking – Drug Use in Australia


There is surmounting evidence that suggests a direct correlation between drug use and criminal offending. Of the 2,319 detainees in watch houses and police stations across Australia who participated in the Australian Institute of Criminology’s 2017 Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program, 75% of those who were eligible to participate in urinalysis tested positive to at least one type of illicit drug. Those tested had an average of three criminal charges against their name. 37% of these individuals had a violent crime as their lead offence with 22 and 20% respectively being property and breach offences. This goes to show the major issue within the Australian justice system regarding drug use. 

Being ‘Tough on Drugs’ is Setting Australia Behind

Drug policy around the world is continuously changing, moving away from the discourse of the bureaucratically deemed ‘war’ on drugs and towards holistic rehabilitation. Specifically, therapeutic community programs have been rolled out in around 30% of prisons in the United States. Therapeutic communities have been designed to explore the life experiences that help individuals learn about themselves: developing self-respect; gaining self-esteem; learning about others; and fostering mutuality and respect for each other. In so doing, concepts of responsibility, authority and meaningful codes of behaviour are established. A study of 1,193 federal prisoners in the US drew results that indicated prisoners in therapeutic communities had lower rates of drug relapse and recidivism than two untreated groups. There have been multiple studies in the United States that further reflects this, with the widespread use of the therapeutic community model being directly associated with these outcomes.

In Australia, 44% of individuals released from the prison system will be reincarcerated in the two years following their release. With the use of drugs among those entering prison reaching 65% in 2018, the question must be raised – why are we not actively working to reduce these statistics? If the governments proposition in becoming ‘tough on drugs’ isn’t working, shouldn’t we be looking to different approaches?

Ethically speaking, Australia’s increasing drug use and criminal offences have a strong correlating relationship. Is it then not our responsibility to aid those encapsulated in the prison system to break the cycle of addiction thus reducing the likelihood of reoffending upon reintegration into the community? In treating addictions as a mental health issue through rehabilitation upon prison entry, we are more likely to see a reduction in recidivism, intergenerational criminality and domestic violence, thus reducing the overall pressure on the criminal justice system. 

Wandoo Therapeutic Community Rehabilitation Prison

Upon being exposed to these statistics, I approached Cyrenian House who facilitate the rehabilitation program at Wandoo Prison. Wandoo is Australia’s first dedicated female, alcohol and other drug rehabilitation prison based upon the Therapeutic Community model. Wandoo has the capacity for 77 residents who, to be accepted into the Therapeutic Community Program: must have drug addiction associated with their offences; a minimum of six months left to serve on their sentence; and have actively presented motivation to rehabilitate.

The model of rehabilitation focuses on the democratic involvement of the residents within the facility to support each other in their recovery. Residents are expected to show ‘responsible concern’ for their program peers, growing in their own recovery by assisting in the recovery processes of others. I was lucky enough to be able to observe many of the sessions that took place with the residents. 

Residents progress through stages within the program, having increased responsibilities gaining privileges and status as they move upwards. Progressing to a new stage recognises increased personal awareness and growth demonstrated through behaviour, attitudes and values. The most important aspect of this, I believe, is the significance placed on peer-leadership. Residents within higher stages act role models to newer residents entering the Therapeutic Community. The staff’s role is primarily to be community managers facilitating the interactions within the community, supporting the residents and aiding in maintaining the social order of the Therapeutic Community.

Through taking responsibility for their own actions, accepting and growing from experiences and supporting each other in their journey through rehabilitation, residents are able to aim to break the cycle of criminality associated with drug use.

Reflection

My time at Wandoo made me realise my passion for social justice. In my future as a lawyer, I want to strive to conduct myself in an ethical way beyond the rules of the Code of Conduct. It is so vitally important for us, as young legal professionals to question the system and push for the best for our clients, the court and society as a whole.

A second treatment prison based on the same model is expected to be open in late 2019 – showing what a difference can be made through the Therapeutic Community.

Plea Offers And Negotiations With The Prosecution To Discontinue, Downgrade Or Amend Your Charge Or Charges

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to make a plea offer or submission to the prosecution in order to discontinue your charge, downgrade or amend your charge to a lesser or different offence, or amend the facts of the charge.


The prosecution is guided by the policies set out in the DPP Statement of Prosecution Policy and Guidelines. These Guidelines set out the factors to consider in determining whether a prosecution is in the public interest, the factors to consider when determining whether there are reasonable prospects of conviction, and the factors to consider in charge negotiations. It is useful to consider the Guidelines and refer to the relevant parts when negotiating with the prosecution. 


The plea offer or submission would set out to explain what we are seeking, the basis in support of what we are seeking, and where applicable, attach additional evidence or documentation in support.
A plea offer or submission to the prosecution may be the difference between proceeding to trial and having your matter dealt with at an early stage, saving you in legal fees in the long run.


Submission To Discontinue Your Charge


The submission to discontinue your charge may be based on a number of factors, either in isolation or in combination. For example, we could submit that the prosecution has a lack of evidence to obtain a conviction, or it may be that it is not in the public interest for the matter to be prosecuted.


If there is a lack of evidence to convict you, we would ordinarily set out the points of prosecution evidence which are weak, and which we say would be unable to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pursuant to the prosecution guidelines, matters should only be prosecuted if they have reasonable prospects of conviction.


Real case example: Our client was charged with Robbery. We wrote to the prosecution pointing out that their case was circumstantial, and would not be able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution discontinued the charge.


Real case example: Our client was charged with Breach of Family Violence Restraining Order. Our client was retrieving personal property from the marital home, and was waiting in a vehicle on the verge of his neighbour’s house. He breached the restraining order by being within a certain distance of the marital home. Our client had good antecedents, and because of his job, any conviction (even if he got a spent conviction) would have an enormous impact on his life. We made a submission saying that the prosecution would not be in the public interest. The prosecution discontinued the charge.


Submission To Downgrade Or Amend Your Charge


In support of downgrading or amending your charge, it may be submitted that the facts would still satisfy the elements of a lesser or alternate charge. 
The benefit of this may be that the lesser or alternate charge may have a lower maximum penalty available, which may result in you obtaining a lesser sentence.


Real case example: Our client was charged with Act with intent to harm causing bodily harm, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment. We successfully negotiated to have the charge downgraded to Act causing bodily harm, heard summarily in the Magistrates Court, where the jurisdictional limit on penalty was 3 years imprisonment and a $36,000 fine.


Real case example: Our client was charged with Reckless Driving with a circumstance of aggravation (to evade police), which carried a mandatory term of immediate imprisonment. This means that the Magistrate would have had no choice but to send our client to prison for at least 6 months. We successfully negotiated to remove the circumstance of aggravation, thus removing the mandatory imprisonment requirement, and the charge was also amended to dangerous driving. Our client pleaded guilty to the amended charge and received a fine. He also avoided a licence disqualification.


Submission To Amend The Facts


In some circumstances, you may agree with the essence of the charge and intend on pleading guilty, but disagree with certain alleged facts which would have a bearing on sentence. It is important to come to an agreement with the prosecution as to the facts, as this is the basis upon which you will be sentenced. 


It could be submitted that a plea of guilty on the amended facts could still reasonably reflect the essential criminality of the conduct and provide an adequate basis for sentence.
For example, you may agree to an assault, but only say you punched the victim, as opposed to punching and kicking the victim. Your sentence may be more serious if you are sentenced on the basis of having kicked the victim as well.


Real case example: Our client was charged with Act or omission causing bodily harm. We successfully negotiated the facts to include some facts our client says occurred, and to remove some facts our client says didn’t occur. Prior to amending the facts, our client would likely have been facing imprisonment. The facts were amended and our client received a fine.

Page 1 of 2

© 2018 Chambers Legal Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.   Designed By Between Elements