17 Jan 2013

Mystifying: conditional discharge for benefit thief

A woman has been forced to pay back more than £5,000 after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.

Deborah Hanks, from Evesham, claimed Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as a single person in relation to a property she rented in Common Road.

But as a result of a joint investigation by Wychavon District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions it was found Mrs Hanks had failed to declare she was living together with her partner at the same address before they married in June, 2010.

They also discovered her husband was working while she was claiming benefits.

When Mrs Hanks, who was still claiming under her maiden name of Deborah Smith, was interviewed in March and July 2011 she admitted they had been living together from their wedding but said she wrote to the council to tell them about it.

But she admitted she did not tell the DWP.

The investigation found Mrs Hanks had been overpaid almost £740 in Jobseeker's Allowance and more than £4,430 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

The case was originally due to be heard at Worcester Magistrates Court last June but Mrs Hanks failed to attend and so a warrant was issued for her arrest.

She was arrested a few days later and appeared in court but entered a not guilty plea to all the charges. Ill health then prevented her from attending future court appearances before she finally appeared before magistrates last Thursday (January 10) where she changed her plea to guilty for all the charges.

She was sentenced to a conditional discharge of 24 months and ordered to pay back all the benefits to which she was not entitled in full.
  • There's no punishment here at all. She's just been told not to do it again for two years, and to give the money back - even though she didn't appear in court when ordered.

    Benefit thieves do it for the money. They should know they will have to pay back twice what they stole. They should not be eligible for any benefits until they have, and they should have to do some unpaid work every week until the debt to society is cleared.

    That would be a deterrent.

    A confiscation order should be made immediately.

    Hit them in the pocket!

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