The UK's supreme court has ruled that the Department of Work and Pensions cannot sue UK benefits claimants who have been overpaid but were not at fault.
The case comes after the government department wrote to more than 65,000 claimants between March 2006 and February 2007, warning them they would be sued for not returning overpaid benefits.
The court also ruled that no more benefit fraud letters can be sent out.
The overpayments were as a result of a computer error within the Department of Work and Pensions. Thousands of families, disabled people and pensioners were affected by the error.
Campaigners opposed to the government's actions argue that many had spent the money received and did not have the means to repay.
Anti-poverty group Child Poverty Action's chief executive Alison Garnham said:
"We hope that the department will regret the anguish caused to many of the people who received the letters and will seek to improve its own administration to avoid overpayment problems.
"The people we spoke to did not know they had been paid too much. They were not fraudulent claimants trying to get extra money. Rather, they were the innocent victims of DWP error and the complexity of the benefit system."
A spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions said: "We suspended all attempts to recover these types of official error overpayments from the date of the original hearing in 2007, and have written off the debt."
At least £1.1 billion a year is paid out in benefit errors each year by the government.
- Ministers ordered to stop threatening pensioners with court over benefit mistakes (Telegraph.co.uk)
- Learn more about benefits (FindLaw.co.uk)
- Learn more about benefit fraud (FindLaw.co.uk)
- Find a solicitor in your area (FindLaw.co.uk)