Benefits cheat claimed almost £16,000 extra

AN EASTWOOD woman has been handed a suspended prison sentence and forced to do 250 hours community service after falsely claiming nearly £16,000 benefits.

Nicola Burrows started claiming benefits for being an unemployed single parent after separating from her husband.

But years later she moved back in with him, failing to tell the authorities, and carried on claiming benefit for another two years.

Mrs Burrows, 47, of Seymour Road, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to declare a change in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits.

The offences took place between February 2009 and April 2011.

She wrongfully obtained £15,849.29 in benefits overpayments, comprised of £8,482.26 in housing and council tax benefit and £7,367.03 in job seekers allowance and other benefits.

At a hearing on October 19 at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court Mrs Burrows pleaded guilty by post to both offences.

Magistrates’ accepted Mrs Burrows’ guilty pleas but because of the seriousness of the offences, and the large amounts of benefits obtained, they were not prepared to pass sentence without her being present and without first obtaining a report from the Probation Service.

The hearing was adjourned for sentencing to last Tuesday, November 15.

In mitigation, magistrates took into account the facts that Mrs Burrows had entered a guilty plea at her earliest possible opportunity and had expressed remorse for failing to declare the change in her circumstances.

They also took into consideration that Mrs Burrows had no previous convictions and was the carer of her disabled mother and accepted that her offences were not fraudulent at the outset.

However, they said that by failing to declare the change in her circumstances she had been deliberately dishonest for a prolonged period, adding that she should consider herself lucky not to be taken into custody.

Mrs Burrows was given a prison sentence of 12 weeks for each offence, both suspended for 12 months.

The sentences are to run concurrently.

She was also given a community service order of 250 hours unpaid work over 12 months.

The council’s request for a contribution of £350 towards its costs was awarded in full.

Mrs Burrows was ordered to repay the council’s costs at the rate of £40 per month, with the first payment to be made within 14 days.