Woman spared jail for benefit fraud

A WOMAN who dishonestly obtained £30,000 of benefits she was not entitled to has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Jane Hunt

A WOMAN who dishonestly obtained £30,000 of benefits she was not entitled to has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Angela Spouge, 45, began legitimately claiming income support, housing and council tax benefits while she was living alone in 2003 but then failed to notify the authorities when she was reconciled with her husband the following year, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Wendy Hewitt, prosecuting, said that as a result of Spouge's dishonesty she was overpaid £18,000 income support and £12,000 in council tax and housing benefit.

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Spouge, of Montgomery Road, Ipswich, was committed to the Crown Court for sentence for two offences of failing to notify a change of circumstances.

Sentencing her, Judge John Holt said: “For three years you failed to notify the authorities that you had become reconciled with your husband and that you were living together.

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“You failed for notify them because you were in debt. You chose to give into the pressures of debt rather than disclose a change in your circumstances.”

He said the case passed the custody threshold but he was able to suspend the prison sentence because of her previous good character, her remorse and the fact that she was repaying the money she had been overpaid at £450 a month.

The judge also said that Spouge had health problems and was awaiting heart surgery.

Spouge was given a 51-week jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work in the community.

Joanne Eley, for Spouge, said her client had made a genuine claim for benefits at the outset. When she and her husband were reconciled she had not been sure it would work out and had then “plodded on” claiming benefits.

She said Spouge had been in serious financial trouble at the time of the offences and she was still £9,400 in debt.

Arrangements had been made for her to repay the money she had been overpaid at the rate of £450 a month.

Miss Eley said her client had physical problems including limited movement down her right side and she was also waiting to have open heart surgery in August.

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