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3 Mar 2014

Suspended sentence for £76k housing benefit fraud

Attractive Louise Port has had her prison sentence suspended after being found guilty of £76,000 housing benefit fraud.

The former GMTV the presenter failed to declare that she was receiving more than £1,000 a month in rent from a flat she owned near London’s Canary Wharf, in which she had an £87,000 stake. She was also receiving £1,150 a month from another property in central London’s West End.

It meant she wrongly received £76,157 in housing benefit between September 2006 and August 2011, which she used to pay off credit card debts.

Judge Anthony Pitts said:
You were something of a sad figure but the jury looked past that and judged the case on the evidence. The evidence was strong but you chose to fight it and you hoped to get a sympathetic jury. You displayed a good knowledge of the housing benefit rules and it was blindingly clear that you hid it (the property).

You are not someone who is wealthy. You were clearly in difficulty at the time you committed these offences. But they are serious offences in relation to housing benefit, which is designed to be tough to obtain if you have equity in property over £16,000. You used that to pay off credit card debts.

I have to sentence you for a prolonged and deliberate deception. Clearly a custodial sentence is inevitable, the only question is whether I can suspend it, that's the problem I have been wrestling with. You have been stricken by an illness which is appalling in the context of your life.

I have only had a glimpse in this trial of who you are - a bright, outgoing woman. Of course, the epilepsy you have suffered from has changed your life and that is a fact of significance which I will take into account. There is no doubt a prison sentence would be extremely difficult although the public may say deserved for this prolonged period of deception. I can tell you now my initial reaction was you would have to go into custody but I have changed my mind. I sentence you to 18 months suspended for two years as an act of mercy.

I don't think you would have ever committed offences like these if your life had remained on track. It's an act of mercy as I think you would have suffered hugely. But you are fit enough to do some unpaid work, there has to be a penalty aspect to this sentence.
Port is subject to a three-month curfew from 9pm-6am, excluding Fridays, so that she can work in a night club.

Shaven headed and dressed in all black, Port wept as the sentence was passed. She embraced sobbing relatives in the public gallery as she was released from the dock.

But where is our money? The court should be able to make a confiscation order at the same hearing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too ill for prison, but well enough to work in a night club?

Will she put as much effort into paying back overpaid benefits as she did with her credit cards? Its an interest free loan!