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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Benefits cheat told to pay back £26,000 or face year in jail

A woman who pocketed more than £72,500 in benefits she wasn’t entitled to has been told to repay £26,000 – or face a year in jail.

Julie Mean, a qualified teaching assistant, claimed the benefits as a struggling single parent while ignoring the fact that she was living with her partner.

At Carlisle Crown Court, the 40-year-old mother-of-two, from Lowther Gardens, Whitehaven, admitted three charges of fraud.

A hearing at the same court on Friday ruled that she had benefited from her crime to the tune of £72,570, but only £26,000 of that was deemed to be recoverable.

Judge Paul Batty QC ruled that the default period in jail should she not pay within a year will be one year.

The earlier court hearing was told that for nearly seven years Mean, a well known voluntary worker in Whitehaven, failed to tell the authorities that she was living as “husband and wife” with her partner.

At that hearing, the court heard that Mean had been in an on/off relationship with William Devlin for 15 years, for a large proportion of which they had been living together, although he frequently had to work overseas.

Her barrister said she was “truly sorry” about what she had done. She accepted that because of the amount of money Mean had wrongfully claimed – a total of £72,570 – Mean could not have complained if she was sent to prison.

But, she suggested, because of her remorse, her previous good character and the fragile mental state that prevented her getting a paid job, a suspended jail sentence would be more appropriate.

The judge on that day, Recorder Kevin Grice agreed, and imposed a 30-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to do 200 hours unpaid community work. He also put her under a three-month curfew.

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