5 Dec 2017

Benefit fraud lasted seventeen years

A woman who claimed almost £80,000 in benefits she was not entitled to, during a period spanning more than 17 years, has escaped an immediate prison sentence.

Janet Pritchard purported to be a single mum bringing up children - but for the whole period, she was living with her husband in a house in Tredegar.

Newport Crown Court was told that Pritchard, aged 54, obtained benefits fraudulently from February 1998 until October 2015.

Prosecuting counsel Steven Donoghue said that Pritchard had claimed falsely a total of £79,865.25.

"She claimed to be living as a single parent with children, but she was living with her husband all the time," he said. "These were different types of benefits, including council tax benefits and child tax credits, and she was caught, rather than stopping herself."

Mr Donoghue added that after her arrest, Pritchard claimed that she and her husband were "separate".

"But among various items found in the house were a joint bank account, a Sky account and gas and electricity accounts. There was also a loan agreement being paid from a joint account. She said that throughout this period she accepted that her husband had been parking his vehicle outside and sleeping in the house, for the sake of the children. She was preparing his meals and washing his clothes but she did not believe that amounted to him living there."

There had been suggestions that this began as a genuine claim, but Mr Donoghue said it appeared never to have been so, and "it all suggests they were living together."

He said that Pritchard has had remaining legitimate benefits reduced as a means of starting to repay the money.

Defence counsel Lucy Crowther told the court Pritchard has raised £7,000 by remortgaging the house, and this is being put towards ongoing repayments, and is an indication of her remorse.

Addressing the fraudulent claims, Miss Crowther said: "This is not money that has gone on living a particularly luxurious lifestyle."

Pritchard had initially pleaded not guilty to a number of fraud offences, including making a false statement to obtain benefit, but changed her plea to guilty last month.

The judge, Recorder Christopher Clee, told her: "You maintained you had done nothing wrong, which led to extensive inquiries that proved the case against you.

Sentencing Pritchard to 15 months in prison, suspended for two years, he warned her that further offending would result in her going to prison.

"I hope you continue to repay these monies as best you can," he said.

So they can afford a Sky account but she still gets benefits. Something wrong here.


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