2 Feb 2016

£38k benefit thief avoids jail

A Scunthorpe woman who fraudulently claimed more than £38,000 in benefits over a six-year period has been spared jail by the "skin of her teeth", a court heard.

Anna Brindley dishonestly claimed £38,446.01 in jobseeker's allowance, council tax and housing benefit between 2007 and 2012, barring a six-month spell in the Middle East.

The 36-year-old also failed to declare that her partner, who was in full-time work and owned their property, was living with her and was also the father of one of her children.

Defence barrister Pam Coxon said the defendant had been in receipt of housing benefit from 2000, but the fraudulent claims did not begin until 2007. "To some extent she buried her head, which seems to be a theme in this exercise," she said. "But this is a woman who feels ashamed to be in this position and will never trouble the courts again."

She has already paid back more than £29,000, but still has around £8,000 outstanding.

She pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity and has no previous convictions.

Her first opportunity was to own up rather than wait to be caught.

Presiding over the case at Grimsby Crown Court, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC described her actions as "prolonged dishonesty". "It doesn't really matter what the lie is, a lie is a lie," he said. "She has told a pack of lies, full stop. This is not a massive mistake, this is flagrant dishonesty."

The judge opted not to jail the mother-of-two.

He said: "You deserve to go to prison. It is shameful that you stand here when you have two children. It is very tempting to send you to jail and I am equally mindful to give you a taste of just how awful a women's prison is. But purely as an act of mercy, and because your children will disproportionately suffer if you were to be jailed, I am prepared to suspend your sentence."

Brindley was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years. She will also be required to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work over the next 12 months.

"I am confident you will not reappear," the judge added. "But you are very lucky, very lucky indeed. You have escaped by the skin of your teeth."


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