A property owner who stole around £30,000 of benefits in a “despicable” fraud depriving needy people of government handouts has been spared jail.
Julie Brown, 55, owned two homes when she fraudulently claimed council tax benefit and Employment and Support Allowance.
But Newport Judge David Miller gave her a suspended jail term after hearing she had already paid back £5,000 to the authorities.
He also ordered her to complete 180 hours' unpaid work and set out a timetable to recover further funds through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Brown received a 16-week jail term, suspended for 12 months, at Newport Crown Court.
Judge Miller told her: “People like you who are not entitled to certain benefits but you claim ignoring the fact you own two other properties is despicable because money is sent to you instead of needy people.”
Brown pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances between November 2010 and March 2014.
Judge Miller imposed a 16-week suspended prison term for each offence, to run concurrently.
The judge said he had ignored “a very old conviction” Brown had received. But he said he been “impressed” by the fact she had also co-operated with the authorities and some money had been paid back.
Her barrister, Hugh Wallace, defending, said in mitigation Brown had pleaded guilty to the offences at the first opportunity as soon as she was confronted by the authorities.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing is expected to take place on November 30.
What does it mean that she pleaded guilty "at the first opportunity"? She committed the offences, and she only confessed when she was found out. This is some kind of moral merit?
Benefit thieves do it for the money. They should have to pay back twice what they stole. They should not be eligible for any benefits until they have, and they should have to do some unpaid work every week until the debt to society is cleared.
That would be a deterrent. A confiscation order should be made immediately.
Hit them in the pocket!