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Suspended prison sentence for benefits cheat

Samantha Harber, 33, of Miller Craddock Way, Ledbury was sentenced at Hereford magistrates court on Thursday, February 16, for a benefit fraud where she claimed nearly £22,000 that she was not entitled to.

She had previously pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify Herefordshire Council and the Department of Work and Pensions that she was living with her partner. The offences took place over a period of two and a half years.

She was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment on each of the two counts to run concurrently and these were suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to serve a 12-month supervision order of 120 hours unpaid work, ordered to pay a compensation order of £3,000 and costs in the sum of £175.

Mike Jones, prosecuting for both Herefordshire Council and the DWP, emphasised the seriousness of the case but urged the bench to sentence the case today rather than remit the case to the Crown Court.

Mr Lister, defending, agreed and told the court that Miss Harber had a previously clean record and that her claim for benefits had not been fraudulent from the outset.

The bench stressed to Harber that she had been close to being sentenced to an immediate term of custody but they took her timely guilty plea into account.

Karen Darby, Herefordshire Council’s benefit fraud manager, said after the case: “This sentence shows just how seriously offences such as benefit fraud are taken.

“The case also serves as a lesson to anyone else who fails to tell the authorities about changes in circumstances that could affect their right to benefits. We will always investigate such cases and will not hesitate to take court action.

“We have a responsibility to ensure taxpayers’ money is not being fraudulently obtained and will also be seeking the recovering of all the money that was overpaid in this case,” she added.