A BENEFIT cheat has avoided jail despite illegally claiming more than £12,000 over a five year period.
Christine Palmer, of Rose Avenue, failed to declare an additional job she got at a convenience store in 2008, while she still received Housing and Council Tax benefits for a rented property in the city.
Worcester Magistrates Court heard how the 44-year-old originally declared part-time work she and her partner did at fish and chip shops, but when she started her second job she did not notify Worcester City Council.
Magistrates were told how Palmer deliberately hid the fact she had another job as it would mean she was either no longer entitled to benefits or would receive lower payments.
The court also heard how between August 2008 and March 2013 Palmer received a combined overpayment which totalled £12,021.84 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit.
The case was originally heard at the Magistrates Court on May 1, where she pleaded guilty to failing to report a change in her Council Tax, failing to report a change in her Housing benefit and dishonestly making a false statement in relation to Council Tax and Housing benefit.
It was adjourned for sentencing until June 5, when Deputy District Judge Davinder Dhaliwal handed her a six week prison sentence, for each of the three offences, to run concurrently, but suspended for two years.
Palmer was also made subject to a community order of 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay back the entire amount of the overpayments she was not entitled to.
Nick Jefferies, revenues and benefits partnership director for the council, said:
“Benefit fraud is a crime.
“People in receipt of benefit payments have a duty to notify the council and report any change in their circumstances that might affect the amount of their entitlement.
“In this particular case, a deliberate attempt was made by someone to claim benefits, when they knew they were not fully entitled to them.
“I believe this case send a clear message that if you try to cheat the system when you claim benefits, you will be caught and we will prosecute you.”
Palmer also had to pay an £80 victim surcharge.