A mother of three who was convicted of £20,000 benefit fraud has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Sonya Bunney, 27, of St Olaves Road, Bury St Edmunds pleaded not guilty to two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances but was last month convicted by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court.
Today (Friday) Bunney, who had wept in the dock when she heard the guilty verdicts, returned to the same court to be sentenced.
Judge Martyn Levett told Bunney: “The clear message that needs to go out is that when there are partners who start living under the same roof, this will affect entitlement to benefits.
“The changes must be notified and failure to do so is dishonest.”
During her trial, Bunney denied that she had dishonestly claimed benefits by lying that she was living by herself with her three children.
Giving evidence, Bunney claimed she had for 11 years had an ‘on-off’ relationship with Richard Jobson, who was the father of her children but she had not been living with him when she made benefit claims between March 2012 and March 2014.
Matthew Sorel-Cameron, prosecuting, told the jury that the authorities had been ‘under the misapprehension’ that she was living alone with her children and paid her income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit totalling just under £20,000.
“If she had told the authorities she was living with her partner she wouldn’t have received that amount and would probably have received nothing or next to nothing,” said Mr Sorel-Cameron.
An investigation was launched by benefits officers in late 2013 which allegedly found that Mr Jobson had used Bunney’s address for his current bank account, his mobile phone, his NHS registration and a car insurance policy.
He had also registered a car at the address and paid the Sky TV subscription for the premises.
Defending, Nicola May told the court today (Friday) that Bunney was repaying all the money she had claimed, through regular deductions from her wages.
Sentencing Bunney to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and ordering her to complete 80 hours unpaid community work, Judge Levett told her: “Convictions of this type have long term effects because of the stain on your good character.”