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Mother-of-four spared immediate prison sentence

The official Scarborough Borough Council logoA mother-of-four 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 worked.


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 decision.”


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.

Scarborough Borough Council,Town Hall, St Nicholas Street, Scarborough, North Yorkshire. YO11 2HG
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