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29 Oct 2019

Mother not jailed over £70k benefits fraud

A mother of three has been spared jail over a £70,000 benefits fraud.

Samantha Butters, 36, pleaded guilty on the day of her trial to four charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstance affecting entitlement to various benefits and one count of fraud in relation to tax credit.

Bradford Crown Court was told she failed to declare her former partner had moved back in and had been living with her at her home in Odsal.

The court heard most of the money was used to pay off debts but some of it went on Butters' expenses on a family holiday to Spain paid for by her former partner's parents.

Nadim Bashir, prosecuting, told the court: "She had nine opportunities to inform the benefits people of her true circumstances."

He said Butters and her former partner did nothing to hide the fact they were living together with pictures of the family posted on Facebook, while he gave her address to his employers as his place of residence and his wages were paid into her bank account.

Mr Bashir said that Butters told investigators that she had received letters about her benefit claims but did not deal with them. She denied she and her former partner had set up a common household together.

He said she had no assets and was not likely to come into any assets so that none of the money could be recovered.

Clare Walsh, for Butters, said that her client contested the period of time her former partner had been living with her and said not all the claims were fraudulent from the start.

She said that the couple split in 2009 but he came back on the scene in 2011 but only as a father to their children and a family friend.

She said although Butters let her ex use an account because he was a bankrupt she only transferred money to her primary account to pay for expenses.

Mrs Walsh said: "She's remorseful and wants to move on with her life and learn from it.

"She's a mother of three children with a good reputation."

She said Butters worked four days a week with special needs pupils at school and has "a naturally caring work ethic".

She called on the judge to give her client a suspended sentence because of the consequences imprisonment would have on the family.

Butters was accused of claiming income support to the tune of £11,581, housing and council tax benefits totalling £22,264 and tax credits of £36,450, when her partner lived with her, and carer's allowance of £10,300 for helping with her disabled brother which she claimed despite having a job.

But Butters disputed the length of time that her partner was living with her and that the figures calculated by benefit fraud investigators should have been lower at about £70,000 and that was the figure she pleaded guilty to.

Judge Jonathan Gibson told her: "Some of it was not fraud from the outset but some was. You were dishonest."

He said Butters' youngest child was seven years old and imprisonment would have significant effects on her children.

He sentenced her to 40 weeks' imprisonment suspended for a year, 120 hours' unpaid work and compensation of £1,000 to be paid to the Department for Work and Pensions.

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