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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Woman lied about properties so she could claim benefits, Carlisle court told

A woman lied to the authorities about the eight properties she owned so she could claim benefits to which she was not entitled, a court heard.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) say 64-year-old Sandra Harrison knew she would not have been allowed the pension top-up she asked for if they had known how many properties she owned or part-owned.

So, they say, she deliberately lied to ensure she was awarded both the pension credit and the housing benefit and council tax benefit that automatically followed from it.

A jury at Carlisle Crown Court has heard that the divorcee – then living alone in a rented house in Front Street, Alston – filled in forms in August 2008 claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit, in which she ticked the box saying she owned no “property or land”.

She said she had only £290 in savings and made no mention of the eight properties, including a shop in Alston, that she owned – either alone or with her partner, 63-year-old Brenda Hardy.

A few days later, the court heard, she phoned the DWP, chasing up a claim for pension credits. She said that, though she owned a property, it was about to be repossessed by her mortgage company and she feared her lifestyle was set “only in a downward direction”.

Prosecuting counsel Robert Wyn Jones told the jury of eight women and four men that Harrison had been deliberately telling lies.

"The fact that she had equity in not one property, but eight, meant she was not entitled to benefits," prosecuting counsel Robert Wyn Jones told the court. Mr Wyn Jones said that even on her own admission the Old King’s Arms shop in Alston, which she owned jointly with her friend Brenda Hardy, had been worth £45,000 in 2008.

Harrison, whose address was listed on court records as George & Dragon, Garrigill, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of making false representation by failing to disclose in 2008 that she owned land or property, either on her own or with Brenda Hardy.

The trial continues.

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