22 Oct 2013

Light sentence for £62k benefit fraud

A woman who hid a £70,000 inheritance windfall and continued to claim benefits has been spared prison.

Barbara Tolley, from Epsom, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court after pleading guilty to two counts of benefit fraud.

In December 2006, while receiving benefits, Mrs Tolley inherited more than £71,000 but failed to report this to the Government's Department for Work and Pensions or Epsom Council.

It was only later picked up on an electronic data match that compares benefit records against certain other types of data and reports cases where there are discrepancies.

The court accepted that while Mrs Tolley had chosen to give away some of the money, it was still deemed to be hers and affected her benefit entitlement.

During the period of the fraud, which ran until April last year, she was overpaid £32,754 in housing benefit, £5,637 in council tax benefit and £24,216 in income support - costing the public a total of £62,608, which she must repay.

Judge Brock said the scale of the offence meant it had crossed the custody threshold and in most cases the defendant would expect immediate imprisonment.

But Mrs Tolley’s early guilty plea was taken into account and she was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

Councillor Neil Dallen, chairman of the council’s strategy and resources committee said:
The courts again showed that benefit fraud is taken seriously. People claiming benefit they are not entitled to should be aware that fraudsters are getting caught and facing severe penalties. If anyone else has not declared their true circumstances they should do so - before they are caught.
The trouble is, though, that the courts don't take benefit theft seriously.

Benefit thieves do it for the money. They should 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.


Anonymous said...

But that is her money to do as she wishes not the states as long with industrial compensation, bank compensation etc etc etc. This is state theft

John Page said...

The point is: if she got all that money, we should no longer have to subsidise her.