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Mother-of-four spared immediate prison sentence
has been spared an immediate prison sentence by a judge after she
was convicted of swindling more than £123,000 in benefits she was
not entitled to.
Maria Harrison, 43, from Hunmanby Road in
Reighton near Filey, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of fraud against
Scarborough Borough Council and the Department for Work and
Pensions, committed over a 12-year period.
She was given a 14-month prison sentence,
suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of
unpaid work in the community. Harrison, who had started paying back
the overpaid benefits prior to her conviction, was also ordered to
continue paying back the money.
At York Crown Court, Judge Clark said
stealing from the public purse was “disgraceful” and said Harrison
had escaped an instant custodial sentence “by the skin of her
teeth”. He said custody would have had a terrible effect on her
four children and her husband would have to give up his current job
as a HGV driver to look after them, meaning it would take longer to
pay back the benefits.
The fraud was discovered in February 2011,
following information passed on to the council which suggested
Harrison was claiming benefits, even though she was living with her
husband at the address in Reighton; and at the time they both
An investigation revealed she stated she
had been living with her children as a single adult since January
1998 and from that time she had claimed various benefits she was
not entitled to receive, including child benefit and council tax
and housing benefit.
Scarborough Borough Council’s Head of
Finance and Asset Management, Nick Edwards, said: “This was a
calculated fraud against the council and the Department for Work
and Pensions which took place over a prolonged period. Harrison was
fortunate not to lose her liberty. We are pleased the Judge has
recognised the seriousness of the offences in his sentencing
Residents who suspect someone of benefit
fraud can call the council’s dedicated hotline number, 0800
0568154, which currently gets around 200 calls a year.