£20,000 benefit fraud mum given suspended jail sentence

A mother of two who denied dishonestly claiming more than £20,000 in benefits after failing to reveal that she owned a house in Ireland has received a suspended 16-week jail sentence.

Marian Baker, aged 38, formerly of King’s Road, Kingston was found guilty of two counts of dishonestly claiming housing benefit by Wimbledon Magistrates earlier this month.

The court heard that Baker was paid £20,705, receiving around £830 a month, between November 2006 and August 2008.

Baker applied for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit in 2006, declaring only a couple of thousand pounds in savings. To the question whether she owned any property, either in the UK or abroad, Baker ticked the ‘no’ box.

Having moved home in 2007 she again declared no income or capital other than her savings. However, later investigations with another London council revealed that Baker had been the registered owner of a property near Dublin since April 2004.

When interviewed by council investigators in September 2008 and July 2009 Baker denied owning the property, claiming that she did not know who was responsible for the mortgage on it.

A three-year appeal by Baker against the overpayment delayed her prosecution by Kingston Council.

The court heard also that Baker had a conviction for a similar offence.

Sentencing Baker to 16 weeks in custody suspended for one year, the magistrates said it was a very serious offence and a substantial fraud committed over a long period of time.

In mitigation Baker’s lawyer told the court that at the time she committed the offences she was of good character and that having become a widow in 2006 she was doing her best to support her children.

Baker was also placed under a 9.00 p.m. to 7.00 a.m. curfew and ordered to pay more than £2,000 costs plus an £80 victim surcharge.

Councillor Rolson Davies, Kingston Council’s Lead Member for Finance and Resources, said:

"We do not tolerate benefit cheats in Kingston. Benefits are for people in need and we will take action against anyone abusing valuable public resources."