The 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme was launched by Rishi Sunak in order to boost the struggling hospitality industry which had been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme itself ran between 3 and 31 August 2020 and allowed customers to receive a 50% discount on food or non-alcoholic drinks (up to a maximum of £10 discount per customer) to encourage customers to eat or drink in participating establishments. The establishment would then seek reimbursement from the government for the discount which had been given to each customer.
Establishments could only take part in the scheme if they were selling food for immediate consumption on the premises if establishment could provide their own dining area for eat-in meals. Those establishments who offered takeaway food or drink and mobile food vans or trailers were exempt from the scheme.
It has been reported three individuals have been arrested in relation to the alleged offences of fraud by false representation and cheating the public revenue. The precise facts of each arrest are unknown at this stage but the components of each of those offences are as follows:
Fraud by false representation
This offence is governed by the Fraud Act 2006 and in order to convicted of such an offence it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that an individual has made a dishonest false representation with the intention of making a gain for themselves or another, to cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss.
A conviction for fraud by false representation could lead to a defendant serving a significant prison sentence which is calculated depending on the value of the fraud and other issues which address the level of culpability and harm of a defendant.
Cheating the public revenue
This offence includes any form of conduct which intends to defraud HM Revenue and Customs. As with fraud by false representation, the prosecution must prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. This is an extremely serious offence and on conviction, the offence carries a significant term of imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
How can we help?
If you have been contacted by HM Revenue and Customs or the Police in relation to alleged fraudulent conduct, it is imperative that you seek specialist legal advice. Convictions for the aforementioned offences can lead to serious financial and custodial penalties and it is important that you are guided throughout the investigation process and represented at court if you are charged with an offence.
Our expert criminal defence solicitors and lawyers have extensive experience of successfully defending clients charged with serious offences. Our criminal defence solicitors act for clients throughout England and Wales and we pride ourselves on achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients. For immediate advice from a member of our specialist team, please call 0161 696 6188 or complete our online enquiry form.