Services Australia relied on an incorrect understanding of welfare law

This mistake has led to unlawful debts, prompting the suspension of 32 criminal cases.
16 August 2023
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Prosecutors are investigating possible wrongful convictions due to an incorrect understanding of welfare law by Services Australia.

The commonwealth ombudsman found that this error resulted in unlawful debts. The commonwealth director of public prosecutions reveals that these cases, involving "income apportionment," have been adjourned for review, along with other historical cases.

The ombudsman's report states that the incorrect calculation of debt could impact convictions for offenses related to overpayment, punishable by up to one year in prison. This issue was first brought to attention by Guardian Australia in November 2020 after complaints from Senator Rex Patrick.
The report emphasises the need for Services Australia and the Department of Social Services to develop a clear strategy for how criminal prosecutions may be affected and for the commonwealth director of public prosecutions (CDPP) to notify the court and individuals involved of significant changes to their cases.

The department and Services Australia issue a joint statement, acknowledging the complexity of the issue and their commitment to resolving it according to the recommendations of the ombudsman.

- CyberBeat


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