A man who informed police out of “sheer spite” that his ex-partner was wrongly claiming benefits incriminated himself at the same time.
Damian Scott Walker, 45, of Long Lane, Dalton, narrowly avoided being jailed after District Judge Michael Fanning said he and Tracy Ann Goldstein, a mother-of-two, had not told the truth during a two-day trial heard earlier this month.
Sarah-Kate McIntyre, representing Kirklees Council, told Kirklees Magistrates’ Court that the two defendants committed fraud on October 7, 2009, and September 21, 2011, by failing to disclose to council officials a change in circumstances namely that they were living together.
By doing so £12,792 in benefits was claimed falsely. The defendants had denied two charges of fraud by failing to disclose information.
Miss McIntyre said the offences came to light when Mr Walker reported Mrs Goldstein to police not realising he was also incriminating himself.
Mr Fanning said: “They were both in this together.” He said Walker had also benefitted from the fraud. Regarding sentencing he added: “I would find it difficult to treat them differently.”
A Probation worker told him that Mrs Goldstein of Ings Court, Ings Way East, Lepton, had declared herself bankrupt.
She said: “She lives in a Housing Association property with her two young sons. She has a good work recored and is currently working in a retail store in Huddersfield. Her employer is aware of what is happening.
“She split from her husband in 2007. There were tensions within the relationship. She lives alone now with the children. I have discussed the impact of custody with her.
“It would be devastating, quite devastating for her. She would lose her home.”
A second Probation worker told the judge regarding Walker: “He had been struggling financially regarding a mortgage and credit cards. He has buried his head in the sands. He lives on his own with his dog. He is employed though his employer is not aware of these proceedings. He has had depression for a number of years.”
Mr Fanning said Walker had acted out of “sheer spite” in informing the police and as the judge during the trial he said: “Ultimately you set out to mislead me and you certainly misled the local authority. People who do this should go to prison.”
However, he said: “There are young children. If I send Mrs Goldstein to prison it deprives them of their mother. It’s not their fault that their parents have behaved like this.”
He sentenced them to 20 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months. In addition they must carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within 12 months.
They were also told to pay £1,080 apiece, Goldstein at a rate of £10 per week and Walker at £40.