A couple has been jailed after an investigation into benefit fraud found they were ‘plundering the benefits system’ to maintain a ‘lavish’ lifestyle, a court was told.
Shireena Kilnorton has been sentenced to a year in prison after wrongly claiming benefits for five years, having told the Department of Work and Pensions she was living as a single mum.
And her teenage children will now be left without a primary carer as their stepfather, Paul Kilnorton also faces a jail term for weapons offences.
Derby Crown Court was told on Friday, August 14 how police officers found the two were supplementing a ‘lavish’ lifestyle on benefits, and discovered three illegal weapons at their home in East View, Langwith.
At a sentencing hearing the prosecution outlined how Mrs Kilnorton opened three benefits claims in 2006, which she was entitled to while the couple had separated.
But when they reunited and failed to disclose the change of circumstances her claims for income support, housing benefits and council tax benefit continued.
And from 2009 to 2014 the court heard the evidence was ‘overwhelming, to the point of being crushing’ that the two were living together as man and wife.
Mr Kilnorton made some 30 calls to his landlord over building repairs in the period – he opened a joint bank account for the couple in 2012 and had also bought a new Land Rover Discovery, registered to the house.
When police conducted a search of the property they found two 40-inch flat screen televisions at either end of the living room, connected to a variety of games consoles, said the prosecutor Steven Taylor.
He added: “Their kitchen might be described as state-of-the-art, with a walk-in fridge stocked with food, and they had an interesting taste in consumables.”
The master bedroom gave further evidence they were living as a couple, with his-and-hers wardrobes, ‘so it was manifestly obvious to officers that the two were living together as man and wife’.
It was then that police found illegal weapons in the house, namely two stun guns in a plastic bag on the desk, and a canister of CS gas inside a locked safe.
Mr Kilnorton, described as a ‘good earner’ with a salary of £27,000 as a long-distance lorry driver, also had two driver’s licences in different names, the court heard.
Mr and Mrs Kilnorton, who have since been evicted from the address and had their benefits sanctioned, acquired more than £42,000 fraudulently from the Government - and the court heard that even though they clearly had an affectionate relationship, Mr Kilnorton said it was his wife that made the claims in interview.
Presiding, Mr Recorder Dominic Nolan QC, agreed with his defence, Andrew Malloy, saying: “She is the one that must take responsibility.”
In quantifying Mrs Kilnorton’s culpability, the prosecution said her act was as simple as ‘putting in a claim and then you keep taking the money until they catch you’.
However when previously challenged about the fraud Mrs Kilnorton denied any wrong doing.
Mr Nolan added: “You lied, and you got away with it. You then committed offences after receiving the clearest warning.”
Her defence barrister Christopher Brewin argued the case for a suspended sentence, as the couple’s two teenage children will lose their primary carer if she is sent to prison.
But after hearing that they had a wide extended family, the judge handed out immediate custodial sentences for both.
The recorder said in closing: “There are many people with real needs, needs not fully met because of restraints on budget which are made worse by those who plunder the benefits system for the sake of greed.”
After her guilty plea, Shireena Kilnorton was sentenced to a total of 66 months of prison sentences over four counts, to be served concurrently over 21 months.
Paul Kilnorton, pleaded guilty to the weapons charges, and received sentences for each weapon totalling three and a half years, to be served concurrently over 12 months.