Sprowston woman spared jail for fraudulently claiming over £52,000 in benefits

PUBLISHED: 09:40 10 November 2012

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A Sprowston woman who fraudulently claimed more than £52,000 in benefits was spared an immediate jail term after the court heard her life had been touched with personal tragedy.

Yvonne Skinner, 63, claimed income support, housing and council tax benefits and pension credit as a single person over a ten-year period when in fact she was living with her long-term partner, Norwich Crown Court heard.

James Byrne, prosecuting, said Skinner, a mother of three of Proctor Road, had been given plenty of chances to set the record straight that she was not a lone parent. Her claim had not started out as dishonest, but she failed to inform anyone when her new partner moved in. When the deception first came to light, Skinner at first tried to claim that she was not living with her partner and he was a lodger, but then changed her plea when it came to court.

Skinner admitted making a false representation and obtaining money transfers by deception and was jailed for nine months suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.

Judge Mark Lucraft said: “The claim was not fraudulent from the outset, but carried on over a significant period of time.”

He added that cases like hers cast suspicion on other legitimate claimants.

However, he accepted she had suffered tragedy in her past.

The court heard she had repaid about £3,000 of the cash and a confiscation hearing to recover the rest of the money will be held at a later date.

Andrew Shaw, for Skinner, said: “This case is one borne out of tragedy.”

He said that she had three children by her previous marriage and had one child with her partner, who died in 1996 when she was just four years old.

He said that led to Skinner suffering from depression and said that her relationship with her partner was never settled.

“She never felt he was there for good.”

He said that the death of their child had also had a deep effect on their relationship.

He said that Skinner was now faced with the prospect of losing her home to pay back the cash.

“This is a loving mother and grandmother. She will lose her home which she has lived in for a very long time.”

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