On 23rd May 2013 Amanda Webber, a mother of eight, was found guilty of multiple counts of benefit fraud. It was different, and far more serious, than most of the cases that a Court will see in this category of offences.
Ms Webber claimed that five of her children had disabilities or medical conditions that impacted on their lives, and claimed various benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Carers Allowance and tax credits) as a result. There was a lengthy trial – five weeks – where the jury heard evidence that the children were leading “active lives, taking part in PE and activities including music, drama and dance. Some even auditioned for ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent show“.
The total value of the fraud was £353,000 over an eight year period.
When dealing with benefit fraud, it is common for there to be a Pre-Sentence Report, but in this case the Judge has adjourned the sentencing for tomorrow (which won’t be enough time to do a report). This is probably because it is so serious that he will send her to prison.
So. What will she get? The starting point is the Fraud Sentencing Guidelines (page 25). We know the value – this puts it in the second column. It seems pretty likely that it is fraudulent from the outset, planned and carried out over a long period of time.
There was a trial, so there is no credit for a plea of guilty. Her being sent to prison will have a devastating impact on her children, but this will provide little mitigation. My guess? 3½ years. We’ll find out soon enough, but what do you think she’ll get? And, perhaps more interestingly, what should she get?
Edit – Ms Webber was sentenced on 24th May 2013 to 4 years imprisonment. Further coverage is here.