Cowboy builders who prey on the elderly and vulnerable will face stiffer sentences as a result of new guidelines released by the Sentencing Council today. The trauma suffered by the victims of unscrupulous builders and other fraudsters is being placed at the heart of the guidelines being given to judges and magistrates in England and Wales.
It means that the emotional impact of falling victim to fraud will be a major consideration when deciding on someone’s sentence, and those found guilty of fraud could face heavy fines or up to 10 years in prison.
The new guidelines for how people convicted of fraud, money laundering and bribery should be sentenced will come into effect from 1 October this year.
Even losing a relatively small sum of money can have a big impact on people. Victims may suffer emotionally and psychologically, losing confidence in their ability to manage their money, as well as getting into financial difficulties and having their credit rating damaged, according to the Sentencing Council.
Lord Justice Treacy, chairman of the Sentencing Council, said: “Fraudsters are in it to make money, but for their victims it can mean much more than losing money... the guideline puts this impact at the centre of considerations of what sentence the offender should get.”
This may mean higher sentences for offenders, particularly where the financial loss is relatively small but the impact on the victim is high. From dodgy investment schemes to gangs targeting people using cashpoints, and cowboy builders targeting vulnerable older people, fraud against individuals cost victims £9.1 billion in 2012-3.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, warned: “As many as four million people are on the receiving end of a scam each year, with many tricked out of thousands of pounds of the money they need to get by.”