Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Another One For You

A single (in this case abandoned) lady with three children was living in a rented property, and in receipt of housing benefit (to pay the rent) and council tax benefit (for obvious reasons). She met a man and one thing led to another and he moved in. She had made quite a good catch as he was working and earning decent money.

Single Lady didn't tell the authorities that she was, in the unlovely official word, cohabiting. Worse, for two more years she signed her annual declaration that she was entitled to her benefits - and she wasn't.

When her case came to court she pleaded guilty, and my colleagues adjourned the case for pre-sentence reports, noting that the fact that the offence took place over time, and that the sum involved had grown to something over £12,000. Because of these factors they indicated that custody could not be ruled out, and neither could committal to the Crown Court for a sentence in excess of magistrates' powers.

The bench that I was chairing was presented with the reports.

I will tell you in a day or two what we did, but what would you do? If you want to see the guidelines they are in the Bench Book link on the sidebar (page 152 of the pdf).

As ever, there is neither a right nor a wrong answer, just differing interpretations of the guidelines.

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