Monday, 16 August 2010


Three Ramsgate residents will spend the next few months living with an electronic tag, after they were handed curfew orders for benefit fraud.

Mark Bateman (44) from the Paragon was claiming Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Incapacity Benefit, based on the fact that he was a single person. A joint investigation with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) discovered that he was living with a friend, Stacey Hollinshead, who later became his partner. She was in full time employment. As a result, he was overpaid £18,851.21. During interviews, Mr. Bateman had claimed that he had been visited by an officer from the DWP, advising him that he could live with his partner, but no record of this visit was ever found.

At Canterbury Crown Court last week (Monday 9 August), Mr. Bateman pleaded guilty to seven charges of false representation from May 2006. He was told that his early guilty plea, full admissions and repayments saved him from custody, although he was given a 10 month suspended prison sentence. He will also spend four months on a curfew order with an electronic tag, to ensure he remains at his home between 7pm and 7am.

In the second case, Colin North (56) from Augusta Road was claiming Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support, on the basis he was out of work and had no capital money. A joint investigation with the DWP showed that he had undeclared accounts, with over £90,000 in capital. He was interviewed and stated that money had been inherited from the death of his partner’s mother. It had been verbally agreed that it would be given to their children, but had been left to Mr. North and his wife.

He was overpaid a total of £28,512.66, but prior to the case going to court, he paid back £9,312.63 of this money. At Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday 5 August, Mr. North pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to promptly notify of a change in circumstances. Sentencing him, Judge James stated that “the benefit system is a safety net and, when people take money from the system, they take from everyone. He obtained a significant sum and his claims were fraudulent almost from the outset. He was able to keep his savings and live off the state, whilst giving money to his family.”

Taking into account his early guilty plea and the fact he had re-paid a significant sum, he was given a six month suspended sentence and a four month curfew, with electronic monitoring. He has to be at home between the hours at 8pm and 6am.

The final case was against Tina Dannahy (54) from Pegwell Road, who was receiving Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Jobseekers’ Allowance. She failed to notify the council and the DWP that her partner had been living with her since July 2008.

In her first interview, she denied having anyone living with her, but by the second interview, she admitted her partner was living with her, saying she was scared to tell the truth and didn’t want to go to prison. In total, she was overpaid £8,752. At Margate Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 5 August, she pleaded guilty to the charges and was given a compensation order to pay back the money and a six month curfew order. During that time, she will be electronically monitored and will not be allowed to leave her home between 7pm and 7am each day.

Cllr. Simon Moores, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: “In each of these cases, although these fraudsters may not have gone to prison, they have still lost their liberty. They’re all on electronic tags for a number of months, sentenced to curfew at their homes, severely limiting their social life, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, and in one case, over the festive period and New Year itself. It just goes to show the impact that benefit fraud can have on people’s lives, when they’re caught. Some of their freedom has been taken away from them for a period of time as a result of these sentences. This should send out a strong message to everyone about the penalties the courts are prepared to impose on benefits fraudsters.”

If any of them fail to comply with the curfew order, they will be taken back to court.

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