£13,500 Gravesend benefit fraudster spared prison

PUBLISHED: 15:56 02 February 2011

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

2010 Getty Images

A 72-year-old woman who defrauded a council out of nearly £13,500 over five years has been given a community order and must repay the money.

Beryl Chambers, of Pier Road, Gravesend, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court charged with benefit fraud against Gravesham Borough Council.

Judge Jeremy Carey, during sentencing on Thursday, said: “You have pleaded guilty and admitted you stole money from the state and defrauded the benefit system and you must take responsibility for this.

“You should be ashamed of yourself; there is no good reason for your actions. If other people who are short of money were to resort to dishonesty then vast sums will be taken from the state dishonestly.I am not going to send you to prison, not because a 70-year-old should not go to prison, but because there are other punishments that will be equally effective.”

Mrs Chambers had previously admitted five offences at a hearing at Dartford Magistrates Court.

Details of the fraud were found as part of a data matching exercise when the council learnt that Mrs Chambers held more capital than she had declared on her applications for benefits.

During an interview under caution she admitted holding the capital which totalled £23,000 and that she had not told the council because she wanted her rent paid.Mrs Chambers, of previously good character, was charged with dishonestly obtaining benefits totalling £13,472.69 over a five-and-a-half-year period.

Defence barrister, James Edenborough, said Mrs Chambers had now only £19,000 of her savings left and was living under a “black cloud”.

Judge Carey added: “You have had a decent, hardworking life and you have now lost your good reputation which I judge to be a substantial punishment.I am therefore sentencing you to a community order to the maximum sentence of 12 months with unpaid work, supervised by a probation officer of 120 hours.”

To report benefit fraud call 01474 337231 - voice mail 01474 337400.

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