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Woman from Skipton claimed benefits despite inheriting £94,000
A Skipton woman who continued to claim benefits despite being left £94,000 by her mother has been given a suspended jail sentence.
Tracey Jayne Cooper, 40, was given a three-month suspended prison sentence and a 12-month supervision order after pleading guilty at Bradford Crown Court to two counts of failing to declare a change of circumstances.
Cooper, of Moorview Road, had elected to be dealt with at the crown court when she initially appeared at Skipton Magistrates’ Court in April.
But at the start of what should have been a two-day trial, she changed her plea to guilty to two charges, with a remaining four to be left on file.
The charges related to the false claiming of housing benefit and income support, totalling £74,989, between January 2010 and May last year. Counsel for the prosecution, Michelle Brown, told the court Cooper was aware of her responsibility to inform both the council and the Department of Work and Pensions of her change in circumstances.
She said Cooper had been the sole beneficiary of her estranged mother’s estate, which she had used to enjoy a higher standard of living.
Counsel for Cooper, Chris Finch, said it had taken time for his client to come to terms with what she had done. She now apologised for her actions and the overpaid benefits had been repaid in full.
Sentencing Cooper, Judge Kershaw acknowledged her apology to the court, but pointed out that she should apologise to the people of Skipton. He said she was entitled to spend her mother’s money as she wished, but she was not entitled to conceal her windfall from the authorities.
Judge Kershaw said people were horrified and disgusted by those who lived a luxurious lifestyle while on benefits and he struggled to find any mitigating circumstances.
The three-month prison sentence was suspended for two years. Cooper will also have to pay costs of £1,500 at the rate of £500 per month.