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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Cumbrian woman who illegally claimed £45k benefits sentenced

A woman who falsely claimed a “staggering” amount of money in benefits has avoided jail.

Paul Batty photo
Judge Paul Batty QC

Lynn Harrison, 29 , of North View in Aspatria, claimed more than £45,000 for a period of more than five years. She appeared at Carlisle Crown Court.

Harrison claimed a wide variety of benefits between December 1, 2007, and July 30 of last year. These included Income Support, Council Tax benefits and Housing Benefit.

Brendan Burke, prosecuting, told the court the claims had began honestly in 2007 after Harrison had split up with her husband. At the time she was a mother of two children but this became four that year after she had twins.

Following this birth, the couple were reconciled and Mr Burke said that her husband had been working and earning around £1,000 per month.

However, Harrison continued to claim the benefits on the basis that she was a single parent with no income from her husband.

“Throughout the period they were living together as man and wife,” he added.

Mr Burke also said that Harrison had claimed the benefits because of debts. But he also pointed out that it would have been possible for her to address this situation legally, even with her husband’s relatively low income.

“There would have been entitlement to state benefits of some degree.”

The total amount Harrison had claimed was £45,654. She had previously pleaded guilty to charges of not notifying the Department of Work and Pensions about a change in her circumstances that affected her entitlement to Income Support between December 1, 2007, and July 30, 2013 and not alerting Allerdale Council to changes in her situation that affected her right to housing benefit and council tax benefit in the same period.

Kim Whittlestone, defending, said: “She is a lady who appears before this court full of remorse.”

She urged Judge Paul Batty QC, presiding, to impose a suspended sentence.

Judge Batty said: “You admitted benefit fraud which amounts to a staggering amount of money, some £45,600-worth, over a period of time which is in the range of five-and-a-half years.”

He added that the claims had started honestly but also said: “You made a conscious decision to carry on.”

He sentenced Harrison to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered her to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and gave her a 12-month supervision order.

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