28 Mar 2017

£61k benefit cheat walks free

Benefit cheat Linda Harrison has walked free from court - despite duping the state out of more than £61,000.

The 54-year-old continued to claim handouts despite living with her partner who was working between September 2008 and May 2015. Now Harrison – who has now been dumped by her partner - has been handed a suspended jail sentence at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

Prosecutor Joanne Wallbanks said the defendant dishonestly failed to tell Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) that she was living with Terence Cheadle from September 2008.

Miss Wallbanks said: “He had been living with her from the beginning of September 2008. The benefits were initially paid as she was unfit for work, she had no other income and she was not living with her partner. But she failed to notify a change of her circumstances in 2008. Since the matter came to light she has repaid £700."

The court heard Harrison was overpaid a total of £61,183.75.

Harrison, of Dunster Road, Longton, pleaded guilty to two charges of benefit fraud.

Stuart Muldoon, mitigating, said the defendant, who has no previous convictions, has severe health problems. Mr Muldoon said: “She is quite a vulnerable woman. Her partner was working in Stoke-on-Trent and living out the area. He asked if he could move in. She did not think it was a relationship that was going to carry on but accepts she was dishonest. He did not contribute towards the household. All he was doing was paying half towards the food. She did not live a lavish lifestyle, she did not have holidays or a car. She was with a partner who was taking advantage of her vulnerability."

Judge Paul Glenn sentenced Harrison to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days.

Judge Glenn said: “Over a period of almost seven years you made fraudulent claims for benefits. You defrauded the state out of more than £61,000. Your initial claims in 1990 were legitimate but you dishonestly failed to notify the authorities when you took up with a new partner who lived with you from 2008 and was working. As a result you had an additional tax-free income of more than £8,000 a year. These are serious offences as benefit cheats are misappropriating monies which would otherwise be spent on deserving good causes. The victims are the honest taxpayers.

“The risk of you re-offending, I accept, is extremely low. You have had a serious medical problem in the last year, a tumour was removed, and you are still in poor health.

“Your personal mitigation means I am going to suspend the sentence. It is very rare I do that in these circumstances."

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