Benefit fraudster wins fight to cut her jail sentence
A FRAUDSTER who dishonestly claimed £56,305 in benefits has had her sentence cut – because of her own personal difficulties.
Court of Appeal judges agreed to reduce the length of Phillipa Butler's suspended prison term after she challenged the original sentence.
They ruled that Butler's nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, was too 'excessive'.
Instead the 44-year-old has now been sentenced to a six-month prison sentence, which is also suspended for 18 months.
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Butler will still be supervised by the probation service for 18 months.
Butler, of Fletcher Road, Stoke, had been sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court in March after pleading guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to give a prompt notification of a change of her circumstances in relation to her claims for benefits between 2004 and 2011.
The Court of Appeal heard this week that Butler's benefits claims were initially legitimate.
But she later failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that her partner, Karl Crossfield, had moved in with her in 2004.
Butler's scam was rumbled following an anonymous tip-off to the benefit fraud hotline in 2009.
A surveillance operation revealed Mr Crossfield's work vehicle was parked outside Butler's address and he gave the defendant's home as his address to his employer. Mr Crossfield had also used Butler's address when taking out a bank loan.
But Butler still denied living with Mr Crossfield when quizzed by the DWP and kept pocketing the cash until 2011.
The court heard Butler was involved in an on-off relationship with Mr Crossfield and although he lived there for most of the seven-year period there were times when he did not.
In all, Butler was overpaid £29,069 in income support, £4,228 in Jobseekers' Allowance, £17,122 in housing benefit and £5,884 in council tax benefit.
During the March sentencing hearing, Recorder Patrick Thompson agreed to suspend Butler's prison sentence after hearing the defendant had mental health difficulties and was caring for her son who has learning difficulties.