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14 Mar 2013

£60k benefit thief goes free

A Lowestoft mother-of-four who dishonestly claimed benefit payments of £60,000 has walked free from court after a judge decided not to send her straight to prison.

Deanne Martin, 28, began claiming benefits when she was an unemployed single mother, but failed to notify the authorities of a change in her circumstances when her partner moved in with her after the birth of one of their children, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Martin admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances.

She was given a 26-week prison sentence suspended for two years, and placed under the supervision of the probation service for 12 months.

Sentencing her, Recorder Guy Ayers said: “Public money is in short supply and it is very important the right people receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

He said Martin had been “robbing the state” and had not given a second thought about what would happen to her children if she was caught.

Timothy Godfrey, prosecuting, said Martin had started claiming benefits in 2001 as a single parent who was not working. The benefit was correctly paid until October 2007, when her partner, who was in employment, moved in with her following the birth of their first child together.

Instead of notifying the authorities that she was living with her partner, Martin continued claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit until August 2011 and during that time had been overpaid more than £60,000.

Mr Godfrey said the fraud came to an end after investigators obtained evidence that the couple were living together, after carrying out surveillance at their address.

The court heard the overpayment was being repaid by weekly deductions from Martin’s current benefits.

Richard Conley, for Martin, said the overpayment had been paid in small amounts over a period of several years and she hadn’t been “living the high life”.

“She has never had a holiday and her partner hasn’t had a holiday since he was 13,” said Mr Conley.

He said that if Martin had been honest with the authorities about her circumstances, she would probably have been entitled to other benefits.

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