civil fraud vs criminal fraud

What are the differences between criminal and civil fraud?

November 9, 2023

Fraud is a complex and complicated legal area that encompasses a wide range of acts, from minor misrepresentations to elaborate schemes. Within the realm of fraud, there are two primary categories: criminal and civil fraud. Although both fall under fraudulent activities, it is essential to comprehend the fundamental differences between the two. If you are under investigation for serious fraud, we highly advise you to contact a serious fraud solicitor as soon as possible.

Criminal Fraud:

Criminal fraud is primarily governed by The Fraud Act 2006, which defines it as knowingly dishonest conduct to gain personal benefit or cause loss (or the risk of loss) to another party. Importantly, actual loss or gain need not have occurred for an act to be deemed criminal fraud. The prosecution of criminal fraud cases is handled by appropriate authorities such as the police or, in more severe instances, the serious fraud office (SFO). Following a criminal trial, the decision is rendered by a jury. For the prosecution to secure a conviction, they must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. On the contrary, the defendant may mount a successful defence by demonstrating that it is possible they did not commit the crime.

Civil Fraud:

Civil fraud cases are initiated by private individuals in civil courts, typically the County Court. However, some rare cases may proceed to the High Court. In civil trials, the decision is made by a judge, as opposed to a jury. The burden of proof in civil cases differs from criminal trials, relying on the balance of probabilities, which is generally easier to establish. This lower threshold implies that victims in civil fraud cases may have a higher likelihood of obtaining favourable outcomes.

Potential Dual Proceedings:

An individual can face both criminal and civil proceedings at the same time. Additionally, one may encounter civil fraud proceedings followed by criminal fraud proceedings or vice versa. Such scenarios can complicate legal matters and significantly strain an individual’s resources. In such cases, prioritising addressing criminal fraud charges is often advisable due to their heightened severity.

Consequences of Being Found Guilty:

The consequences of being found guilty of fraud diverge significantly between criminal and civil cases.

Criminal Fraud Consequences:

Under criminal law, fraud is regarded as a serious offence, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and substantial fines. The severity of the sentence may depend on various factors, including the scale of the conspiracy, the number of victims, and any prior criminal convictions. Cases involving more extensive conspiracies with significant losses or gains are more likely to attract longer prison sentences.

Civil Fraud Consequences:

In contrast to criminal cases, civil fraud does not entail sanction. Instead, the court may order the defendant to reimburse the victim for their losses and may impose additional recompensation. Although civil consequences may not involve imprisonment, they can still lead to considerable financial liabilities.

Seeking Legal Assistance:

Serious fraud, regardless of whether it falls under criminal or civil purview, demands careful legal attention. Even civil fraud cases can result in serious legal repercussions. If you are facing criminal fraud charges or civil fraud proceedings, seeking professional legal counsel from a serious fraud solicitor is crucial. An experienced serious defence solicitor can provide indispensable guidance on how to navigate the case, assist with police interviews, prepare a robust defence strategy, ensure fair treatment under the law, and facilitate any appeals processes if necessary. Contact Cunninghams Solicitors today; Cunninghams initial advice is always free and can be contacted at 0800 051 2542 or enquire online.