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Skipton couple claimed £20,000 in benefit fraud
8:00am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in News
A Skipton couple who admitted benefit fraud of more than £20,000 have been given suspended prison sentences and ordered to carry out unpaid work.
Teresa Fowler, 28, currently under suspension from Northern Rail, and Ian Peacock, 46, together falsely claimed from Craven District Council £15,910 in housing benefit, and £4,185 in council tax benefit, Skipton Magistrates Court heard.
Fowler and Peacock, who both claimed to have been led on by the other, were each given six- month prison sentences suspended for two years after admitting producing false Craven District Council intervention forms on or about July 25, 2011, and on or about June 29, 2008.
They were also ordered to carry out 120 hours’ unpaid work in the community and pay £250 costs to the council.
The couple, who had lived together in Beamsley Court since 2007, were jointly charged, but appeared in court separately after magistrates heard they had since parted and Fowler said she felt intimidated by her former partner.
The court heard that over a space of four years, claim forms had been filled in by Fowler and signed by Peacock.
The forms claimed that Peacock lived alone in Beamsley Court and that his only income was incapacity benefit and disability allowance. But in fact, Fowler had moved in with Peacock in 2007, they had become engaged in 2010, and Fowler was working for Northern Rail.
Mitigating for Peacock, John Mewies said the 46-year-old, who still lived in Beamsley Court, was a vulnerable adult who was dyslexic and who had relied on Fowler to complete forms for him.
He said Fowler had moved in with Peacock after telling him she was struggling financially and Peacock had informed his landlord, Sanctuary Housing, of the new arrangements.
Fowler had taken on the running of the household and Peacock had let her complete all necessary paperwork and form filling, said Mr Mewies.
“He cannot be regarded as the prime mover in all this. He has up until now led a blameless life,” said Mr Mewies.
Fowler, now of Marina Crescent, Skipton, had felt unable to appear alongside Peacock in court and had felt relieved to be no longer in a relationship with him, the court was told.
In mitigation, Javid Arshad said it was Peacock who had been the main instigator and that he had received all the benefits.
He said Fowler had been working at Northern Rail and had been adding to Peacock’s income from her own earnings.
“She never saw any of the money. She was enlisted in a way to do the dirty work, although she does acknowledge what she did and has shown remorse,” said Mr Arshad.
He added that the failure of the relationship was “a blessing”, and said: “He was controlling, and the only time she was allowed out of the house was when she was working.”
Mr Arshad added that Fowler had been suspended from her job since September and it would be a “hammer blow” if she lost her job permanently.