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21 Mar 2014

Jail for £51k benefit thief

On Thursday 13 March at Guildford Crown Court, Julie Watkinson, formerly of Lansdowne Road, Purley and Hillbury Road, Whyteleafe and currently at Wheelwright Court, Horley, was given a twenty week custodial sentence after pleading guilty to benefit fraud of over £51,000 at an earlier hearing. (h/t Dave)

In 2007 Mrs Watkinson applied for housing and council tax benefit from Croydon Council, while living at Lansdowne Road and also claimed Income Support. Mrs Watkinson declared she was not employed.

In July 2008 after moving to Hillbury Road, Whyteleafe Mrs Watkinson applied for housing and council tax benefits from Tandridge District Council. She declared she received Income Support and had no income from earnings.

It was subsequently established Mrs Watkinson had been employed by Surrey County Council in a children’s nursery since 2006. As a result of her failure to declare the true facts to either council or the Department for Work and Pensions she received Income Support, Housing and Council Tax Benefit she was not entitled to.

After initially pleading not guilty, at a hearing on 31 January Mrs Watkinson changed her plea to guilty to six counts of having dishonestly made false statements to obtain benefit and of having failed to notify changes of circumstances she knew would affect her entitlement to benefit. Four other charges remain on file. In total the sum of benefit overpaid was £51,000.

The judge gave her credit for her guilty plea and the fact she had not spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, by reducing the sentence, but said the seriousness of the offence was too great to suspend the sentence.

There were no orders for a contribution towards the cost of the investigation conducted jointly by the both councils and Department for Work and Pensions.

Councillor Martin Fisher, Chairman of the Resources Committee, said:
Judges do not often send people to prison for benefit fraud, but in this case it was justified as Mrs Watkinson claimed a large amount of public money she was not entitled to.

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