A SCARBOROUGH hospital worker who falsely claimed more than £58,000 in benefits over many years has escaped an immediate prison sentence.
Joanne Elizabeth Turner, 37, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances when she appeared before York Crown Court.
The charges replaced an original 17, which listed the fraudulent activities involving Income Support and housing and council tax benefits over the same period of time – May 2002 to February 2008.
Matthew Donkin, prosecuting, told the court that the Scarborough Hospital cleaner, of Mount View Road, had obtained a total of £58,287.79 by failing to tell the authorities that she was living with a partner.
He told the court that Turner, a mother-of-two, was finally caught out when Scarborough Council officials carried out checks on a variety of information which revealed the presence of the partner at the house.
These included checks on medical registrations, details from loan applications, employment records and school records.
Telling the court that custody would have serious consequences for Turner and her children, Glenn Parsons, mitigating, said his client was “stressed and distraught” at the thought of prison.
He added that the partner had been violent towards his client and that the police had been called several times to incidents during the relationship.
This had led to him, said Mr Parsons, leaving the home from time to time, leading Turner to believe that the relationship was ended, but he would then return, making “all sorts of promises” to behave better.
The court heard it had been his parting shot to report Turner’s fraudulent claims to the authorities.
Mr Parsons said that Turner was now with a new partner, had made some repayment of the monies she had fraudulently obtained and had had to live with what she was doing for 10 years, and three since she was finally caught .
Sentencing Turner to six month custody, suspended for two years, Judge Colin Burn told her that he recognized that prison would be a “devastating” sentence.
Adding that he also had to take into account the amount of taxpayer’s money involved - money meant to be used for paying for such things as the NHS, Turner’s current employers - the judge said that he also recognised that many people would say that only prison was appropriate.