Woman’s £10,000 false benefit claim

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A 66-YEAR-OLD woman, who falsely claimed more than £10,000 in benefits, has been given a conditional discharge.

Penelope Alexander, of Rozel Court, Beck Row, appeared at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court last Thursday to admit to charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances while claiming benefits.

Alexander had claimed more than £9,000 in Housing Benefit and £1,276 in Council Tax payments between October 2008 and August this year despite having taken up work as a cook at the Cabin Café in Bury St Edmunds.

Elizabeth White, prosecuting, told the court how Alexander had told the council that her only income was a state pension.

Miss White said Alexander was not aware that she was obliged to tell the authorities of her new job – and that she did not want to tell her employers once she had realised her mistake.

Michael Watley, in mitigation, said that Alexander was ‘genuinely remorseful’.

“She has put herself up a role model to her children and she is so deeply ashamed to come to court to be sentenced.

“She ended up in a situation where to admit to what she had done was more than she could bear to face,” he said.

Alexander had already repaid the Council Tax and agreed with the council to repay £100 a month towards the outstanding Housing Benefit, according to Mr Watley.

After also hearing representations from a probation officer, magistrate, Stuart Roy, said the court would be going outside its sentencing guidelines in respect of the case.

He said: “We are concerned by the amount of money involved.

“However, your good character and willing to repay the money owed has counted in your favour.”

Alexander was given a one year conditional discharge and £555 in costs.