Leominster resident Mrs Jolene Watton was sentenced to 16 months in custody after being found guilty by a jury for fraudulently claiming over £28,107.45 of benefits. She appeared for sentencing at Hereford Crown Court on the 11th December 2014.
Mrs Watton had been found guilty at Worcester Crown Court following a two day trial last month. She had claimed benefits as a single mother, when she had in fact been maintaining a common household with her husband. The fraud was committed over a 5 year period during which she received over £24,148.13 in Housing Benefit and £3959.32 in Council Tax Benefit.
Judge Toby Hooper who was passing the sentence said that the evidence against her, although circumstantial, was overwhelming and that although she has been making payment to clear the debt, it would take her 56 years to clear the debt at the current rate of repayment. He said that the money she had dishonestly claimed had deprived people in genuine need of the resources and that he could find no justification in suspending the sentence despite her being of previous good character and having two young children.
At her trial, Mrs Watton stated that although her husband Stuart Watton visited her every morning and evening to see their children, he did not in fact live with her. She claimed that being a member of the traveller community prevented her from getting divorced as it would bring shame on her family. However, the jury, after only an hour of deliberation, rejected her account and unanimously convicted her of fraud.
Anyone with information concerning Benefit Fraud should call the DWP Fraud hotline on 0800 854 440 or online at www.targettingbenefitfraud.gov.uk. All calls are treated confidentially and anonymity is respected.