Maria Daker was represented at her sentencing hearing at Sheffield Crown Court this week by benefit fraud solicitors Forrest Williams Legal Ltd.
Maria, who had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly obtaining Pension Credit (benefit fraud), had feared an immediate custodial sentence for this offence.
However, as a result of Steve Williams’ mitigation, the District Judge did not sentence Maria as harshly as he could have done.
Maria, who had been prosecuted for claiming Pension Credit over a 10 year period to a total in excess of £60,000 explained to Steve when she first instructed our benefit fraud solicitors that she had believed she was entitled to Pension Credit. She stressed she had not intended to make a claim that was in any way dishonest.
At the time, she told Steve, she was in the process of setting up home abroad with her husband but that she was making regular visits back to the UK.
She said she believed she was entitled to Pension Credit by virtue of her age, and that she thought the claim forms she had completed over the years were just a formality.
She added, on further questioning, that the relationship with her husband had been an abusive one and that she had felt under some pressure, from him, to renew her claims for Pension Credit even when they were no longer living in the UK.
He had assaulted her and injured her, she told us, and they had split up on a number of occasions. She had returned to him mostly through fear of his reaction if she refused to do so.
After taking part in an interview under caution with staff from the Department for Work and Pensions, a decision had been made to charge Maria and set a court date.
The matter moved from the Magistrates’ Court in Sheffield to the Crown Court, and Maria was given an appointment to meet with a Probation Officer, who would compile a pre-sentencing report for the court.
Our benefit fraud solicitors were able to liaise with the Probation Officer, who shared her recommendations for the court: a suspended sentence order with a curfew requirement. The Probation Officer deemed Maria unsuitable for a period of unpaid work.
In line with the recommendations of the Probation Officer, and Steve’s mitigation, Maria was sentenced to 12 months custody, suspended for 12 months. A curfew requirement was made, with a curfew from 1pm to 9pm every day apart from Friday. In addition, Maria was also informed that a tag would be fitted to her for a period of 4 months.
Although the matter was not finalised at this point, as there is still a Proceeds of Crime Application to be heard in the New Year, Maria expressed her gratitude to Steve and his team for the support received thus far in her case.
Her biggest fear – an immediate custodial sentence – was avoided. For Maria, this meant everything on the day of the sentencing hearing.
That she can face the future – difficult though it will be – without having to experience life in prison as a 70 year old, is the most precious thing to Maria right now. The rest can be sorted out, with further professional assistance.
If you need benefit fraud solicitors, call our office today on 01623 397200 for free, initial advice.