27 Dec 2013

Repeat benefit thief jailed for 20 months

A disabled benefit cheat who swindled more than £100,000 from the taxpayer has been jailed for a total of 20 months.

Road accident victim Jane Heeley, 52, started claiming disability allowance and income support legitimately after being severely injured in 1991, but between 2002 and 2010 she failed to tell the authorities that she had got married, was sharing a home with her husband and had started doing limited bar work for 12 hours a week.

A judge at Bradford Crown Court heard today how Heeley, from Huddersfield, claimed at one stage that she could not get in and out of bed, take a bath or prepare a meal, but she had been working at the Wakefield bar between March 2007 and November 2010.

Judge Robert Bartfield accepted that Heeley had only been receiving payment in kind for her limited hours and that there was no evidence of high living, but he said the offending was too serious to be dealt with by way of a suspended prison term despite her continuing medical difficulties.

Prosecutor Simon Clegg said Heeley, who had previous convictions for benefit offences in 1981 and 1990, was actually arrested at the bar during a shift.

He pointed out that although Heeley's original applications for income support and disability living allowance were legitimate her later claims for housing and council tax benefit were fraudulent from the outset.

The court heard that Heeley's husband was put forward as her ''landlord'' even though they had been living at their Bradley address since early 2002.

When the council wrote to Heeley in December 2008 seeking clarification about the number of people living at her home she maintained that she was the only one there.

Mr Clegg said the authorities were paying out income support on the basis that Heeley was not working and unable to work, disability allowance on the basis that she was unable to perform basic tasks and other benefits on the basis that she was a tenant in the house and her husband was the landlord.

Between 2002 and 2010 Heeley received payments to which she was not entitled totalling £101,310 and the court heard she would now face further proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Heeley admitted charges of fraud and making dishonest representations to obtain benefits and Judge Robert Bartfield highlighted the fact that the housing benefit and council tax offending had been ''professionally planned'' and carried out over a considerable period of time.

Heeley walked into the dock with the aid of a crutch and the judge said he was satisfied that she was still significantly disabled as a result of the ankle injury she suffered more than 20 years ago.

''There is no evidence of high living in your case,'' stressed the judge:
There is nothing to suggest you were driving around in BMWs or had extensive premises or anything like that. I have seen the very many testimonials about you and they testify to you being an excellent mother and a very popular and, in every other respect, decent person.
But the judge said the offending amounted to very considerable frauds on the public purse and could not be overlooked.

Barrister David Taylor, for Heeley, outlined difficulties in the mum-of-two's previous marriage in the 1980s and he described her relationship with her current husband as ''only a marriage in name''.

Mr Taylor said her partner Joseph Flaherty acted as a full-time carer for Heeley, but he spent long periods away working.and she was effectively a single lady being given a roof over her head by him.

He conceded that his client's health had slowly improved over the years, but he submitted that she was still severely disabled and in need of significant medication.

Mr Taylor said Heeley was an sociable, out-going person despite her difficulties and that was why she had agreed to help out at the bar.

The court heard that Heeley had expressed a high level of remorse for her offending and had described her behaviour as ''stupid and ignorant.''

After Heeley's sentence was passed Mr Clegg formally offered no evidence against Mr Flaherty and not guilty verdicts were recorded in his case.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She could only get Housing Benefit with a tenancy agreement, which her partner would have signed. Yet he is not prosecuted. Without his signature on a sham tenancy agreement, there would be no HB.

You dont sit down doing bar work.