08:00 Wednesday 14 November 2012

Benefits cheat, 23, dodges jail term


A 23-YEAR-OLD mother has escaped an immediate prison sentence after she admitted fraudulently claiming more than £21,000 of benefits.

Burton Magistrates CourtElizabeth Boam, of Shobnall Street, Burton, illegally claimed housing benefits, council tax benefits and income support for more than two years after failing to notify authorities that she was living with her previously estranged husband.

Boam, a mother-of-two, admitted knowingly deceiving East Staffordshire Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Burton Magistrates’ Court heard that the defendant began claiming the benefits in April 2008, when she stated she was a single parent with another child due in four months.

Boam declared in official documents she had separated from her husband Jamie Mahmood and had no other means of support.

Declarations were signed for both the council and the Department for Work and Pensions, and payments were calculated and authorised.

Moira Bell, prosecuting, said: “There is a legal requirement to notify the authorities if there are any changes to personal circumstances, but information was received that Boam was living with Jamie after a brief separation.”

Mrs Bell told the court that Boam was interviewed under caution and was shown documentary evidence that linked Mr Mahmood to her address.

Boam said in a subsequent interview that she had an unstable relationship but had been living with her husband ‘on and off’.

She said he did not contribute to any living costs other than their Sky bill so she carried on claiming as a source of income.

The defendant fraudulently claimed income support between December 2008 and August 2011, and housing and council tax benefit between December 2008 and August 2011— resulting in a total overpayment of £21,737.

Simon Dean, defending, told the court that Boam had already been making repayments for a year.

He said: “This is a young lady who has been very open with me and the authorities, and she has had to endure the most awful domestic abuse from her partner who has now left.”

Mr Dean said that his client did not blame her husband, but it was bound to have an impact on her.

He told the court that she did not have any relevant previous convictions and was trying to do something positive in her life — but added that she was still in receipt of benefits.

Magistrates had asked for an ‘all options’ pre-sentence report, including the possibility of a custodial penalty, to be prepared for the hearing yesterday.

Boam was sentenced to a four-month prison term, suspended for 18 months.

She was also given a 12-month supervision order and must complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay court costs of £85.

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