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By D
14/02/2010

Notification of Nothing

LB Croydon v Shanahan [2010] EWCA Crim 98

Ms Shanahan was tried on three offences under section 111A(1A) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. These were:

Count 1 between 24 June 2004 and 12 December 2006, she dishonestly failed to notify the London Borough of Croydon of a change in circumstances that she knew would affect her entitlement to housing benefit and council tax benefit, namely that she was in receipt of income through remunerative employment that commenced on or about 24 May 2004.

Count 2, similarly she failed to notify the London Borough of Croydon that she was in receipt of working tax credit from 28 May 2004.

Count 3, similarly she failed to notify the London Borough of Croydon that her child tax credit had increased from 28 May 2004.

At the close of the prosecution case the Defendant’s Counsel made a submission of no case to answer on counts 2 and 3. This was accepted by the Judge and Ms Shanahan was found not guilty on the 1st count. This is the appeal from the decision of the Judge. There is no intent to seek a retrial on these counts but it is an important point of law.

The submission of no case to answer on the 2nd and 3rd count was on the technical point that the receipt of working tax credit and child tax credit were irrelevant. The fact of being employed was already sufficient to reduce Ms Shanahan’s entitlement to Housing and Council Tax Benefit to zero and therefore the additional alleged failures to notify did not create a ‘change of circumstances’ which would trigger notification. Additionally, if the right to receive benefits had already been extinguished then it was not possible for Ms Shanahan to ‘know’ that her entitlement had changed.

The Court found itself bound by a previous Court of Appeal decision in R v Passmore [2007] EWCA Crim 2053 notwithstanding the efforts by Croydon to argue that it was a per incuriam decision or to distinguish the case on its facts. The Court accordingly held that a change of circumstances could not be held to ‘affect’ and entitlement to benefits unless that change would, after calculation, cause the entitlement to change. It therefore dismissed the appeal and ordered Ms Shanahan’s acquittal on the counts 2 and 3.

Posted in: Benefits
D is a solicitor specialising in landlord and tenant matters with a London firm.

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