A mum-of-four from Dewsbury who fraudulently claimed almost £25,000 in benefits was spared jail – because of her kids.
Jessica Atkinson, 23, of Crackenedge Lane, was overpaid after she failed to tell the authorities her boyfriend had moved in.
Atkinson, whose youngest children are just two, four and six, admitted two offences of dishonestly failing to inform Kirklees Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that John Hartley was living with her.
She falsely claimed housing benefit, council tax benefit and child tax credit between June 2011 and September 2013.
District Judge Michael Fanning sentenced Atkinson to eight weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months with 150 hours of unpaid work. She must also pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.
Mrs Vanessa Jones, prosecuting, told Kirklees Magistrates’ Court that Atkinson had over-claimed £15,258.93 in housing benefit, £8,176 in income support and £1,240.64 in tax credits.
She said Atkinson failed to inform the council or the department about Mr Hartley.
She had already started to repay what was owed.
Ms Rachel Smith, for Atkinson, told the court how her client was of previous good character and she and her family had been caused much embarrassment. She had lost her job as a result of the case.
Had Atkinson told the authorities about Mr Hartley she would still have received “significant” benefits.
She said Atkinson had debts and did not want to “off-load” them on Mr Hartley.
Judge Fanning said: “People think they can rip off the benefits agency and local authorities when there are people who really need support.
“I accept you really needed support until someone else came onto the scene and moved in.”
He said had Atkinson informed the authorities she would have received a “fair chunk” of what she claimed but he still had to deal with her on the “black and white figures” of almost £25,000.
“I would send you to prison without hesitation if it was not for the children,” he said.
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