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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Suspended jail term for Cumbrian woman who scammed £50,000

A former jeweller has escaped jail after she pocketed more than £50,000 of taxpayers’ money by pretending for four years that she was not living with her husband.

Susan Lister photo
Susan Lister

Related: Former Carlisle jeweller admits four-year benefits fraud

Susan Patricia Lister, 60, was paid the money in income support and council tax benefits after failing to tell the authorities that she was “living together and maintaining a joint household” with her husband David.

She might now be made to pay back every penny because she was told she would have to return to court in June to face proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard how officials from the Department of Work and Pensions saw Mr Lister regularly coming and going at the family house in Burgh by Sands.

Prosecuting counsel Tim Evans said the evidence showed that Mr Lister – who was working for the Finesse window company – was living with her “pretty much all the time”.

Although she denied that she had a close relationship with him, all his clothes were in her bedroom and his pyjamas were left lying on the side of the bed, he said.

Mr Evans said that Lister was given plenty of opportunities to declare that she and her husband were living as man and wife, and letters were sent to her every year reminding her of her obligation to tell the DWP of any change in her circumstances.

Mr Evans told the court that Lister would not have wanted to tell the truth because she and her husband were falling behind with their mortgage repayments and needed all the money they could get.

“This was a couple living beyond their means, who were short of money at various times,” he said.

Lister, who used to run her own jewellers shop in Carlisle but now works at another one in Middlegate, Penrith, originally denied both charges but changed her pleas after the judge told her he would not be sending her to prison if she did.

Defence barrister Jerry Baxter said Lister suffered “massive problems both mentally and physically”.

He said she needed her husband only to provide the daily care her physical condition meant she needed.

Lister, who appeared in court on crutches, was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.

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