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22 Feb 2018

HMRC worker fiddled her tax credits

A mum-of-four who stole nearly £50,000 of tax credits while working for HMRC was spared jail – because of her children.

Nicola Shaw, 37, was an administrative officer in the government department’s “claimant compliance team” benefits section.

Her job involved claim investigations and sending out forms so claimants could notify the taxman if their circumstances changed.

But for six years Shaw pretended to be a single mum after her ex-partner moved back into their Wirral home and they married.

Judge Andrew Menary, QC, today said: “The claim document makes crystal clear that you were obliged to report that fact. The public, reading of this case, would be horrified to discover that somebody occupying that position would have behaved in the way you did. It means you knew full well what your responsibilities were.”

Liverpool Crown Court heard Shaw started a relationship with her ex-partner Richard Hamblett in 1997 and joined HMRC in 1999.

David Watson, prosecuting, said the couple bought a house in West Kirby in 2003 and had their first child in 2004.

They made a legitimate joint tax credit claim in July 2004, before phoning HMRC in November to say Mr Hamblett had moved out.

Shaw made a second, initially legitimate claim on December 1, 2004 – stating she was a single mum – which ran until April 6, 2015.

She was required to inform HMRC of any change in circumstances within 30 days and to return an annual declaration form.

The benefit cheat falsely completed these annual forms and failed to respond to 39 separate “award notice” checklist letters.

Mr Watson said: “She clearly reunited with Mr Hamblett and they in fact married on March 4, 2006. On September 30, 2007 they had a second child and on October 30, 2010, a third.”

Prosecutors accepted the couple split up in January 2012, sold their house in August that year and divorced in 2013.

The single claim ended when Shaw married her second husband, Kevin Shaw, who attended court to support his wife.

Mr Watson said the overpayment of £48,778.94 would be recovered by HMRC’s internal debt management unit.

Shaw told police her relationship with Mr Hamblett was “characterised by domestic violence” and she often stayed at her mum’s home. She claimed they split up three days into their honeymoon and the two additional children were “forced upon her”.

The mum, who has no previous convictions, admitted fraud on the first day of a trial on February 12.

However, in a pre-sentence report, she claimed she thought HMRC would have been aware of her position because her name changed.

Shaw cried in the dock when Judge Menary said she was “not a good role model for her children”.

He criticised her “continued pretence that she had no idea there was a great responsibility on her to report these things”.

Anna Duke, defending, argued it was “a miscommunication rather than a pretence” and said “frightened” Shaw had “buried her head in the sand”.

She said her client was “terrified” of being jailed, which would have an “extreme knock-on effect” on her family. Ms Duke said her parents were not in good health and if she was jailed, her husband might have to reduce his working hours.

Judge Menary said he “utterly rejected” the excuses given by Shaw, who “sought to lie her way out of it”.

But he said: “If I send you to prison today, a sentence which in many ways you richly deserve and the public would expect, there will be significant consequences for your children. It’s the immediate and potentially long term consequences for the children of losing their mother that drives me to the conclusion that it would not be appropriate to send you to prison.”

Judge Menary handed Shaw seven months in jail, suspended for two years, plus 150 hours of unpaid work and a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Source

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Judge, any mother who wants to commit benefit fraud can go right ahead.

She worked for HMRC and didn't expect to get caught, which speaks volumes.