11 Apr 2014

Light sentence for benefit thief with teenage daughter

A lesbian mother-of-one pocketed almost £50,000 in benefits by claiming she was an unemployed single parent despite being in a civil partnership with another woman. (h/t Dave)

Karen Armitage, 42, even tried to claim her partner, Micheala Axall, was actually her mum when the seven-year deception came to light.

Armitage was given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change in circumstance and two charges of making a false statement.

Prosecutor Camilla Buck said Armitage made claims for income support, Job Seekers Allowance, unemployment support and housing and council tax benefit dating back to 2000.

The court heard the mum-of-one failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that she had lived with hospital worker Miss Axall from 2005 and that they were in a civil partnership from August 2006.

Armitage was arrested after evidence showed the couple had been living together at the semi-detached house on Asket Drive, Seacroft, Leeds, West Yorkshire.

The prosecutor told Leeds Crown Court: 'She was interviewed in July 2012 and said Miss Axall was her mother.' Armitage later admitted being in a relationship with her but claimed that they did not live together.

The court heard Armitage has previous convictions for theft, handing stolen goods and obtaining property by deception. The total amount illegally claimed was £49,409.

Defence solicitor Richard Reed said Armitage now accepted that the couple shared bank accounts, Miss Axall supported her and that she should have declared the fact to authorities. Mr Reed said Armitage had not worked much in the past. He said she was now looking at ways of paying back the money. He added: 'But she is realistic that she may never be able to repay this vast sum.'

The lawyer said Armitage’s daughter was now in her teens and would suffer if her mother was sent immediately to prison. Mr Reed said his client had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity and had expressed remorse for her offending.

Judge Rodney Jameson, QC, gave Armitage a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also told to do 200 hours unpaid work and attend a 15-day programme designed to address her offending.

The judge said most people in Armitage’s situation should normally expect to go straight to prison. But he added: 'There is no real reason to believe that you will re-offend, or that you are in any way a danger to society as a whole.

Which is no argument against a suitable sentence.

'If you can repay, as I am told you are hoping to do, at least some part of this money, that is in the public interest as well as in your own interest.'

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