Benefit cheat ‘lucky not to go to jail’

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A woman from Whittlesey has narrowly escaped going to jail after being found guilty of fraudulently claiming £22,000 in benefits over a period of two years.

Kelly Burch, of Nene Close, Whittlesey, was sentenced to 250 hours’ unpaid community work at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.

The judge said she had avoided a custodial sentence only because it would have had a disproportionately adverse effect on her family. Earlier, magistrates had said that none of the defence witnesses were credible.

The case was brought by Fenland District Council and the Department of Work and Pensions following a lengthy investigation that revealed that between July 2009 and August 2011, Mrs Burch had been falsely claiming housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support as a single parent.

In fact, throughout that period she had been living with her partner, Michael Burch, as husband and wife. She had failed to notify the council about her change in circumstances. The couple had a child together in February 2010.

The prosecution followed various allegations from several members of the public indicating that she was living with her partner.

Evidence gathered by FDC’s benefit fraud investigation team and the DWP included details from the child’s birth certificate showing that the couple were both resident at her address. Information was also obtained from credit records, Mr Burch’s employers and Facebook.

Mrs Burch remains liable for the full overpayment.

To report suspected benefit fraud, call FDC’s special hotline, 01354-622583, e-mail fraud@fenland.gov.uk or wtite to Fenland District Council, PO Box 60, County Road, March, Cambs PE15 8NQ.