Nadine Wilson-Ellis was convicted on 19th July 2013 of ‘two offences under the Fraud Act’. It seems that she was granted a council tenancy in Bristol in November 2009 on the basis that she was living and working in the city and was an unemployed single parent with one child. This was untrue however – she was living with her husband in Nottingham and working as a Law lecturer getting £30,000 a year (and sub-letting her Council Flat). The Council discovered that she had received about £10,000 over a period of 3 years from the fraud.
Ms Wilson-Ellis apparently owned two homes but applied for a larger house (as she had two children) in 2011 where the documents she submitted in relation to this were found to be false and the deception unravelled.
It’s not clear exactly what offences Ms Wilson-Ellis was found guilty of. It sounds as though the offences were in relation to obtaining a council tenancy that she was not entitled to. It is possible that there was a charge relating to the use of false documents.
Contrary to the popular view, the Courts tend to chuck the book at one of their own who get caught misbehaving.
The BBC News story is here.
Judges’s sentencing remarks
The Judge said:
“Your behaviour inevitably resulted in a more deserving claimant being denied the accommodation that was offered to you,”
“It was a fraud that was calculated, deliberate and planned.
“In defending yourself you brazenly lied in the fact of the most damning evidence, which fortunately the jury saw through.”
She was sentenced to 7 months immediate custody.
There was no plea of guilty and so there could be no credit.
It seems as though the fraud was fraudulent from the outset and carried out over a significant period. These are factors which if correct, the Judge would have taken into account.
The guidelines are here and looking at benefit fraud, the range appears to be high community order – 12 months (looking at the £5-20,000 box, ‘fraudulent from the outset and carried out over a significant period or multiple frauds’).
It is presumed that she had no convictions and was of good character. That most likely made for little mitigation.
In mitigation, the courts have held that it is correct to take into account the loss of a career as a mitigating factor, however, many judges do not, as they believe that a) that is part of the punishment and b) that the offender knew that was a risk when committing the offences and were willing to ‘throw it all away’. In cases where the offender is a single parent and the argument is that the children need the parent to care for them (and so a custodial sentence should be avoided) some judges believe that is an aggravating factor because of the willingness to risk a custodial sentence.
It is difficult to assess the level of sentence as we are unsure of the offences of which she was convicted, but on a simple assessment of the criminality (as what we know from the news reports) against the 7 month sentence, it certainly appears to be in the correct bracket, with a bit of an uplift for the fact she was a barrister.