Lying Canterbury mum Isabelle Farmer told 'we all pay price for benefit fraud' after pocketing £36k
Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions
A Canterbury mother-of-six who pocketed £36,000 of taxpayers' money has escaped with a suspended prison term... on the day Britain's top lawyer called for tougher sentences for benefit cheats.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said that in future those convicted of benefit fraud could soon face up to 10 years in jail.
Isabelle Farmer, who lied about her benefits claim, had told a judge at Canterbury Crown Court she was "an honest woman".
Fibbing Farmer, 44, said she was no longer living with her lover Christopher Wicks in Downs Road when she made claims for state handouts.
For nearly five years she raked in income support, housing and council tax benefits.
Judge Heather Norton told her that only hours earlier the DPP has said benefits existed to help the most vulnerable in society.
She quoted from Mr Starmer's speech, saying: "It is a myth that 'getting one over on the system' is a victimless crime: the truth is we all pay the price."
The judge added fraudsters were taking cash away from society's most vulnerable people and costing the country £1.9bn a year.
Farmer's barrister, Michael Bisgrove, told the judge: "She is an honest woman who has had to accept that what she did was wrong."
But Judge Norton told her: "You say you are an honest woman, but you lied to get the benefits and then lied under interview."
Farmer was only caught when undercover benefits officers staked out their home for four months in 2011 and spotted her partner coming and going there on 17 separate occasions.
But even then, Farmer – who wept throughout the hearing – lied about the fact they were living as a couple.
She eventually pleaded guilty to two fraud charges and was given a 20-week jail sentence - suspended for 12 months.
Judge Norton told her that despite the proposed sentencing changes, Farmer had to be sentenced under the current guidelines.
The case was heard by Judge Heather Norton
She said she accepted the mother - whose children are aged from six to 25 - had not used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Mr Bisgrove had claimed she had been suffering for physical and mental problems and had struggled to cope in a "sometimes volatile relationship".
Prosecutor Robin Griffiths said "suspicion fell on her" that she was living with her partner and a surveillance team was put in place.
"Powerful evidence emerged that Mr Wicks was living there and when his work records at a garage were checked he had given that address as where he was living," he added.
Farmer - whose older children and partner were in court for the hearing - was told that for the next eight weeks she will be under partial house arrest, ordered to wear an electronic tag and told to remain in her home between 9pm and 7am.
She was also given six months to pay £250 prosecution costs.
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