Seeing as my main target of contemptuous laughter has only been wandering around Blocksages Playing Fields this week, I thought I’d turn my attention to what appears to be a growing financial scam that is becoming rife around Tameside – That of the rise of The Benefit Cheats!
This week, the National Daily’s broke the story of a despicable woman who had been cheating the system and stealing over £36,000 of our tax money, so that she could travel the world with her civil partner.
Cheryl Brooks, 45, of Stalybridge was apparently caught, after 3 years of swindling the system, because she stupidly posted photographs of herself and her partner on Facebook, enjoying elephant rides, feeding koala bears, stroking a leopard, posing at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, signing her name at Elvis Presley’s Graceland home and singing karaoke in India.
She had claimed she was single but was living with her civil partner Margaret Brierley, 42, on three separate claims forms, which over the period, allowed the crooked couple to rake in £36,166.81 in overpaid benefits.
But the real injustice here is not so much the crime, but the sentence; which saw the thieving pair cocking a further snook at the leniency of their sentence by Brooks sending a ‘status update’ to her page, which read: “Well for once things went well for me and I'm still here taking my bag home with me thank you for all the good wishes I've had and everyone’s support.”
She then had the audacity to put a further two fingered salute to authority by posting on Facebook about holding a “get out of jail” party.
Presumably getting shit-faced with all her other benefit dodging mates and other like-minded wastrels who think it's good to support a couple of common thieves.
So much for British justice!
How often do we read the same old line from Tameside Council’s executive member for finance, who’s always quoted as saying, “I must stress that cases like this are rare. However, we will never hesitate to take people to court when we believe it to be necessary."
No wonder our so called financially strapped council is claiming poverty when we have Judges who on hearing these cases for the prosecution, say things like: “I don’t believe everything you said to probation. I think you had a good lifestyle out of that and funded luxurious foreign travel.
“You had a number of bank accounts and although it wasn't fraud from the start, it quickly became so. You have health problems and I give you full credit for your plea.”
So, it would seem that you can steal and lie and cheat the taxpayer out of as much money as you like and provided you have dependent children, you will get a ‘get out of jail ‘ card because financially, it would cost council’s more money if they were to take those children into care.
Last year, a mother-of-five who committed benefit fraud by claiming £76,000 she was not entitled to also escaped jail. The reason as explained in the summing up was, “In a way you richly deserve to go immediately into custody."
“It is true the income support was not from the outset dishonest but your claiming of housing and council tax benefits was wholly dishonest."
“But you are the mother of five children and I think you are genuinely remorseful. You are also looking after your nephew and your testimonials are very complimentary of you. “I am just about able to suspend this sentence but should you be back before this court for any offence, you will be going immediately into custody.”
The woman was ordered to perform 200 hours community service within the next year and pay £300 in prosecution costs.
The irony is, she is paying back the money she owes - out of the benefits she is still claiming!
So, as for these cases of cheating the taxpayer being ‘rare’ – These examples of injustice follows on from a similar case a couple of weeks ago; again from another Stalybridge woman, Jane Broadhurst, previously of Church Bank, Stalybridge, who failed to inform Tameside Council that she was living as husband and wife with Stephen Broadhurst, who was in full-time employment as proprietor of a haulage company.
She unlawfully received £17,906.20 for the period October 23, 2009, to August 6, 2012.
She was found guilty after a two-day trial at Tameside Magistrates’ Court, and was given an 18-week prison term, again suspended for 12 months, ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work, and to pay the council’s costs of £1,390.
The problem is, this type of fraud is buried; no one wants to admit it’s going on, and because no one’s really taken hold of it, it’s grown to a point where it’s getting totally out of control.
There are literally thousands of cases of benefit fraud placed before the court and the result of most of them is non-custodial!
Whether it was intended as a joke or not, as soon as that message was seen on Facebook regarding ‘a get out of jail free party’ Cheryl Brooks, should have been hauled back to court, charged with contempt and the full custodial sentence carried out.
It is only by making examples of these parasites that the fraudsters will think twice. After all, it’s our money they’re stealing!