Benefits cheat mum from Nelson made £24,000 claims

Burnley Magistrates Court
Burnley Magistrates Court
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A MOTHER-of-two benefits cheat claimed almost £24,000 she was not entitled to by not letting on her estranged husband had moved back in, a court heard.

Hayley Hawke was getting income support, council tax and housing benefits, because she was supposedly a single parent, in the three-and-a-half year fraud. She was caught out after the Department for Work and Pensions carried out surveillance and saw David Hawke leaving her home early each morning, Pennine magistrates were told.

Hawke had been warned she was facing jail, but escaped with a suspended term after admitting three counts of failing to notify a change in circumstances, in that she was living with David Hawke in Wickliffe Street, Nelson, to the DWP and Pendle Council between November, 2007 and March, 2011. She had no previous convictions.

The defendant (27), of Andrew Road, Nelson, was given eight weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, with supervision, 150 hours unpaid work and an eight-week curfew between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week. She must pay £75 costs. The Bench chairman told her the offences were extremely serious and added: “You could so easily have ended up in custody.”

Mr Richard Taylor, prosecuting for the DWP, told the court Hawke was overpaid £23,939.10. She claimed income support from June, 2007 as a single parent with two dependent children.

Surveillance was carried out between December last year and February and her husband was seen leaving the address and being picked up in a van.

Mr Taylor said officers from the police and department searched the defendant’s home in March and found bank statements showing regular payment of wages into her account and utility bills addressed to Mr Hawke.

Hawke was overpaid £12,938 in housing benefit, £2,616 in council tax benefit and £8,384 in income support.

The prosecutor said when the defendant was interviewed in March and told about the surveillance, she admitted the parties reconciled in November 2007 and she had not told the authorities.

Mr John Nuttall, for Hawke, said she made the claim when she and her husband separated as all the money had gone with him and she had nothing.

The solicitor said: “She made a claim that was appropriate at the time, but accepted when they reconciled she ought to have told the department but failed to do so.”

Mr Nuttall said the money did not go on a luxurious lifestyle. The family had struggled financially, even with the illegally obtained money, and had debts. That was where the money had gone.

The solicitor went on: “It’s simply been spent on surviving as a family. Her husband was on a relatively low wage and their outgoings had not been met by his wage. I don’t think this is a lady who will commit any further offences or who will fail to comply with whatever the court orders.”