Curfew for benefits cheat

Scarborough Magistrates Court
Scarborough Magistrates Court

A SCARBOROUGH woman who unlawfully claimed more than £13,000 in benefits has been sentenced.

Yvonne Stretch, of Sweetbecks Close in Eastfield, failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions and Scarborough Council that her partner had moved into her home between February 28 2009 and February 24 last year.

It meant she received £13,293 in income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, to which she should not have been entitled.

Stretch pleaded guilty to two charges at an earlier hearing.

Scarborough Magistrates’ Court heard that Stretch had been claiming income support since 2004, and that she was fully aware that the changes in her circumstances would influence her entitlement to benefits.

Shaun Greenan, representing Stretch, told Scarborough Magistrates’ Court that his client had no previous convictions. He added: “She had personal difficulties with a previous relationship and her health, and her health continues to be a concern.

“There is little I can add to the pre-sentence report. I see its recommendation as realistic.”

A curfew between the hours of 7pm and 7am was imposed on Stretch. She will be electronically tagged and the curfew will last for six months.

She was also ordered to pay £80 in costs.

Scarborough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions did not claim for compensation, but may seek to reclaim the money through the civil courts.

Following the verdict Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform, said: “When people receive benefits from us they enter into a contract to tell us of any change in their circumstances.

“Deliberately not doing so is a crime and takes valuable funds from those who need them the most.

“At best they will have to repay us all the money they have taken, at worst they will end up a criminal and in the pages of a newspaper.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions added: “In addition to sentence imposed by the courts, the Department will always take action to recover benefit which has been fraudulently obtained to ensure that fraudsters do not benefit financially from their criminal activities.”