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12 Jan 2014

Benefits thief mother jailed despite effect on children

A benefit cheat's claims that her children would be left to fend for themselves if she went to prison has cut no ice with a judge who had warned her to make arrangements for them.

Mother-of-six Hayley Jean Brookes, who had received a staggering £135,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled, was jailed for 18 months by the judge at Warwick Crown Court.

Brookes, 39, from Polesworth, had denied failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances when she had started living with someone who she then married.

She also denied five charges of making false representations to obtain various benefits totalling £135,514 between May 2005 and January 2011.

But she was found guilty of all six charges following a three-day trial at Coventry Crown Court last month.

Brookes was warned by Judge Sylvia de Bertodano to make arrangements for the children, aged from ten to 19, when the case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report.

During the trial the jury heard that Brookes had begun claiming income support in 1999 on the basis that she was a single parent living alone with her children.

But she failed to notify the authorities when she began living with Peter Cooke, who was a coach driver and then a factory worker, in 2005 and again kept quiet when they then married in August 2008.

Brookes, who has lived at various addresses in north Warwickshire, also made new claims to North Warwickshire Borough Council and Tamworth Borough Council for housing and council tax benefit whenever she moved during that period.

Those claims were 'fraudulent from the outset' because she was already living with Mr Cooke when she submitted them, although Brookes had claimed during her trial that she had never allowed him to move in with her.

As a result of her dishonesty, Brookes received a total of £82,894 in income support and £52,619 in housing and council take benefits to which she was not entitled.

At the resumed hearing prosecutor Anthony Potter said that the two councils had recovered £2,835.50, 'but no money has been recovered so far as the income support is concerned.'

He pointed out that there had been some discussion on whether Brookes would have been entitled to claim working tax credit, but that had been impossible to determine.

Paul Mytton, defending, said: "The central factor of her life has been her children. It is plain she is somebody who has had the interests of her children very close to her heart throughout."

Jailing Brookes, Judge de Bertodano told her:
You were convicted after a trial of offences of obtaining benefits you were not entitled to. These are benefits which are there to provide help to the most needy in society; not as an extra for families who simply have an income but have needs which exceed it, which probably describes most families. The most important thing for you is your children, and a large part of your offending was in order to provide what you saw as essentials for them. I realise that what happens today will have very serious consequences for your children; but the fact is you were telling deliberate lies to the authorities over a significant period of time.

The message must go out that if people tell lies for year after year to obtain benefits they are not entitled to, they must go to prison no matter what the effect on their children.
P.S. And this single mother has been told she will probably go to jail. Or is it just a frightener?

1 comment:

Mishi said...

"...to make arrangements for the children, aged from ten to 19..."

Last time I looked, being 19 made you an adult. So plenty of child care options - the current husband, children's father(s) and the elder sibling. Oh and of course, the State.