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The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

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Family of five sentenced for tax evasion and benefit fraud


Five members of the Coffey family were today sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on a range of charges including cheating the public revenue and making false statements for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining thousands of pounds in public money through the benefit system.

Andrew Biker of the CPS Central Fraud Division said: "No income was ever declared by John Coffey to the Inland Revenue despite him working all his life in the tarmac and block paving industries. Even more money was made buying and selling cars and trading horses.

"The sheer number of bank accounts operated by the family and their ability to transfer significant funds between them fly in the face of their claims of illiteracy and ignorance of matters such as Income Tax. They were able to pass almost £2 million through the accounts by using false names and documents. Indeed, in one fraudulent house transfer, John Coffey hired two sets of solicitors and calmly acted the parts of both seller and purchaser simultaneously in order to transfer property around the family in different names to muddy the waters as to who owned what.

"In another brazen act of fraud, Bridget Coffey claimed over £9,000 in housing and council tax benefit from Cardiff County Council by stating that her husband was her landlord. In turn, her daughters claimed more than £70,000 in payments from the Department for Work and Pensions and Stroud District Council with false statements and documents from their father.

"No matter how you earn money, paying tax matters. But denying the honest British public of their contribution to tax was not enough for the Coffeys who went further by setting out to take funds set aside for those who most need them. People can rest assured that the CPS will do all it can to deprive these criminals of their assets and put the money back where it belongs - into the public purse."



The defendants were father John, mother Bridget, son Michael and daughters Helen and Mary. They were sentenced as follows:

  • John - 2 years 9 months, compensation £450,000, costs £9,645, plus all his defence costs
  • Michael - 12 months suspended for 2 years, unpaid work of 200 hours, £50,000 compensation, costs £9,645 plus defence costs
  • Bridget - 12 months suspended for 18 months, 100 hours unpaid work
  • Helen - 6 months suspended for 18 months, 200 hours unpaid work
  • Mary - 12 months suspended 18 months, 200 hours unpaid work

The prosecution case first arose when an 82 year-old-man complained to Trading Standards about paving work done to his drive by John and Michael, who tried to extort £16,070 from him. Other victims claimed that when it came to payment they were met with aggression and intimidation and pressured into paying more than had been originally agreed. One witness obtained a provisional quote before going on holiday, saying he would contact John on his return to confirm whether or not they would go ahead. On his return from holiday, he discovered that his drive had been re-laid badly. Coffey demanded money and visited the victim's wife with another male whilst he was at work, leaving her in tears. Refusing to pay, John Coffey took proceedings to the County Court.

Following an initial investigation, John Coffey claimed to set up a legitimate business. In fact it was a naked attempt to deceive the authorities as to their true tax liability. The reality of the Coffey business was that where monies were received from the public, cash would be the preference and if cheques were insisted upon, the payee would be left blank and family names subsequently added.