31 Jan 2020

Benefit cheat was repeat offender

A mum from Leeds who illegally claimed more than £28,000 in benefits over a nine-year period has avoided jail.

Zena Hirst claimed she was unemployed and living alone in order to get housing benefits and discount on her council tax.

But the 64-year-old's adult son was living with her and was working full time.

Her offending came to light when a routine check was carried out and revealed that someone else was registered as living with her.

Leeds Crown Court heard Hirst began the offending in January 2009 when she filled out forms for housing and council tax benefits on the basis she was living on her own and was receiving job seeker's allowance.

Prosecutor Laura Addy said Hirst kept up the deception on an annual basis when she received letters reminding her that she must inform authorities if there was a change in her circumstances.

She continued to claim that she was living alone.

The defendant also maintained the lie when she was required to fill out forms when the Bedroom Tax was introduced in 2012.

Hirst came under suspicion in 2018 when a routine check was carried out and an e-mail was sent to her asking if her son was living with her.

Miss Addy said: "She immediately declared that her son was a resident and had been since 2009 and offered to repay the money at a modest rate."

Hirst was interviewed and said her son had been living between her home and his then girlfriend's home at the time she made the claim but he had been living with her on a permanent basis since 2011.

The total amount illegally claimed over the period was just over £28,000.

Hirst pleaded guilty to two offences of benefit fraud.

She has a previous conviction for benefit fraud in 2004 when she received a conditional discharge.

Phillip Morris, mitigating, said Hirst made the benefit claims after she was made redundant from her job in a warehouse in December 2008.

He said she now works as a cleaner and has repaid more than £1,000.

Hirst was given a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Simon Batiste said: "I accept that this was not money obtained for high living."


You might think that previous offenders might receive extra scrutiny. But no.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No extra scrutiny. Staff expected to process claims as quickly as possible. End to End Stats are what matters not number of claims refused. Universal Credit means less staff and more automated claims.

If you read that record numbers are in work or self employed, it means record numbers claiming Working Tax Credits; dont assume they have genuine jobs. Anyone can get a bogus payslip off the internet or claim to be a handy man or gardener.