26 Mar 2013

Mr Recorder Balraj Singh Bhatia fails in his duty

Two mothers from Telford who falsely claimed almost £200,000 between them have escaped immediate prison sentences. (h/t Dave)

Lynsay Elcock, 35, from Madeley, dishonestly obtained £81,721 in income support, council tax and housing benefit, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard. She was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years.

In a separate case Miranda Harris, 44, from Malinslee, was given a 10-month jail sentence suspended for two years after admitting falsely claiming £110,589.01 in income support, job seekers’ benefit and housing and council tax benefit in periods between April 29, 2002 and December 18, 2011.

Elcock admitted obtaining the money between September 1, 2005 and July 19, 2011 at an earlier hearing but appeared at the court for sentencing, where she was given a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years.

She admitted claiming the money while she was living with William Stanley, but had failed to declare that information to the authorities.

Elcock had admitted two charges of dishonestly failing to disclose a change of circumstances, one relating to income support, the other to council tax and housing benefit.

The court was told the total amount dishonestly obtained by Elcock, who has children aged 11 and five, totalled £81,721.

Mr Mark Sharman, prosecuting, said she had been claiming some benefits since January 1995, but that was honestly and it was only in 2005 that is became dishonest when Mr Stanley moved in with her.

Mr Danny Smith, for Elcock, said: “Her mitigation is that she never felt secure enough in the relationship to declare a change in circumstance. She has taken up a full-time job and is now paying back the money at a rate of £100 per month.”

In the second case heard at the court, Miranda Harris appeared for sentencing after admitting falsely claiming £110,589.01 in benefits between April 29, 2002 and December 18, 2011.

Mr Philip Beardwell, prosecuting, said she had begun claiming benefits as a single woman with a child. He said the situation changed in 2002, when a partner moved in, but no change of the circumstances were given to the DWP.

Mr Mark Sharman, for Harris, said she was now paying the price, working two jobs to pay back in the region of £127 per month.

Mr Recorder Balraj Singh Bhatia, sitting at the court, said:
I have sentenced two very similar cases of ladies, both of good character.

They are notoriously hard cases to sentence and it seems that in the Shropshire and Telford area there are lots of these cases, where women are driven to falsely claim these benefits.
What a ridiculous comment. First, they are not of good character. They knowingly stole large amounts of money from us over periods of several years.

In what sense are these criminals "driven" to commit their crimes? Tempted, yes - but driven?

If there are a lot of these cases in the area, could that be because non-punishments like these are being handed out?

If there are a lot of these cases in the area, is there not a case for deterrent sentences to send a message?

These sentences certainly send a message. But it's the wrong one.

The Shropshire Star agrees.

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