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9 Oct 2018

Probation officer in benefit fraud

A woman who illegally claimed more than £7,000 in benefits while working as a probation officer has avoided jail.

Tara Gale, 38, claimed Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit between February 2015 and February 2016 while in paid employment.

The mother-of-one failed to disclose her circumstances when she made the benefit application to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), on the grounds she was unable to work and having no income or savings.

In total she fraudulently claimed £7,351.70 from the DWP and Bridgend Council .

When it came to light that Gale was working as a probation officer, an investigation was launched and she was interviewed under caution.

She said she was “surprised” when it was put to her she was in work while claiming benefits, and had not done it intentionally but due to “problems with her memory”.

Gale, from Bridgend, initially pleaded not guilty to two counts of benefit fraud but changed her pleas in April.

It was claimed on Gale’s behalf that she suffered with dyslexia and possible bipolar disorder and ADHD.

She has one previous conviction for shoplifting dating back to 2015.

However did she get to be a probation officer?

She was due to be sentenced in May but Judge Neil Bidder QC deferred sentencing so Gale could be given the chance to engage with mental health services and to arrange to make regular payments to the DWP.

He warned on the last occasion that if she failed to comply with the requirements she would be sent to prison.

At the postponed sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Bidder said Gale had complied with what had been asked of her.

He added: “As a probation officer, you have let yourself down and this sort of thing reflects very badly on the service. It’s not their fault but it is a reflection on them.

"This was a dishonest failure to say you were working while applying for benefit and you obtained £7,351 through your dishonesty.

“You are not a person of good character and in my judgement this is serious enough to pass the custody threshold but if you make payments of your debt to the benefit agencies, I will not send you to prison.”

Gale was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years.

Source

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