No-one likes fraudsters, whether they’re ripping us off as beneficiaries or as suit-clad businesspeople. National’s announced some ineffectual steps to ‘crack down’ on the minor amount of benefit fraud that occurs (no similar crackdown on white collar fraudsters and tax avoiders). But they’ve gone to far in trying to criminalise people just for being partners of benefit fraudsters.
“Currently there are few options available to prosecute partners who know or benefit from such offending, leaving the entire debt with one partner.”
“The proposal will also extend MSD’s ability to seize assets owned or jointly owned by a spouse or partner under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, and to recover some of that debt from the partner who has benefited from the fraud.”
Obviously, if you are party to offending – ie you know about it and benefit from it – you should be prosecuted, and you can be already. But it’s nuts to suggest that people could be made criminals just for having been in a relationship with a fraudster and, as part of a single household, unknowingly benefited from the fraud.
That’s Stalin stuff. He created the offence of being Family Members of Traitors of the Motherland for people who had done nothing wrong except have a family member who was an ‘enemy of the people’.
It’s a basic tenant of our society that you can’t be punished for something that you aren’t responsible for.For example, if your mate takes you out for lunch and it turns out the money came, unbeknownst to you, from him holding up a dairy, should you have to pay back the money or go to the clink? Of course not, you didn’t do anything wrong.
National’s ‘get the wives too’ offence is a daft attempt to do away with that founding principle of our legal system. Where the hell is Crown Law?
From what I can see the other changes look pretty minor (keep an eye on the known crims, share info with IRD) and will do bugger all to affect what is already a tiny problem compared to, say, the huge increase in benefit costs arising from National’s failure to create jobs.
But that crazy familial guilt stuff has got to go.