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24 Dec 2015

Woman cautioned for benefit fraud re-offends

A carer who claimed more than £18,000 in benefits she was not entitled to had received a caution for an identical offence two years earlier.

Kirsty Wilcox, 27, received the certificate of caution from East Riding Council on February 15, 2010, for failing to inform the local authority she had gained employment while claiming housing and council tax benefit.

However, Hull Crown Court heard how Wilcox claimed a total of £18,803.19 in "numerous benefits" that she was not entitled to between early 2012 and September last year.

She pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to three counts of dishonestly obtaining benefits and two counts of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances.

Prosecutor Dale Brook said Wilcox had failed to inform the Department for Work and Pensions that her partner, Shaun Jacobs, had been living with her in Howden. "The department became aware that someone may be living with her," he said. "They made enquiries with various organisations."

Mr Brook said it became apparent that Mr Jacobs had given Wilcox's address to his employer, Lloyds TSB, Sainsbury's Bank and Esure, a motor insurance company.

On June 18 last year, Wilcox was interviewed. Mr Brook said: "She denied that he was living with her. She accepted that if that had been the case she had a duty to inform the Department for Work and Pensions, or at the very least, East Riding Council, of a change in circumstances."

Mr Brook provided the court with details of Wilcox's caution. "She has no previous convictions," he said. "But she does have a relevant caution from 2010. Between June 1, 2009, and June 14, 2009, she failed to notify the authority of a change in circumstances in that she had gained employment." Mr Brook said, in light of the fraud spanning just two weeks, East Riding Council had decided to deal with the matter by way of issuing a certificate of caution.

Due to the absence of previous convictions, Richard Thompson, mitigating, suggested to Judge Kate Buckingham that she could "draw back" from imposing an immediate prison sentence. He invited Judge Buckingham to view documents, including references, which he claimed, collectively, show Wilcox "to be a responsible parent" and "someone capable of working hard".

Mr Thompson said his client is employed as a care assistant, but is currently on sick leave. "She is signed off because of stress and anxiety and that is due, at least in part, to these proceedings that have been hanging over her for some months," said the barrister.

An attachment of earnings order is being used to recoup the £18,803.19, at a rate of £70 a month, the court was told.

Judge Buckingham sentenced Wilcox to seven months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered her to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. She must also pay £600 costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

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