Published: 18:32, 19 October 2009
| Updated: 18:32, 19 October 2009
by Keith Hunt
Two sisters-in-law who cheated the benefits system out of thousands of pounds have walked free from court after a judge decided it was not necessary to send them to prison.
Michelle Bainbridge lied on forms to falsely claim £85,418 and Pamela Bainbridge did the same to obtain £17,500.
Both claimed they were single parents without partners when they were, in fact, living with their husbands, brothers Darren and Tony Bainbridge.
But Recorder Colin Reese QC spared them immediate imprisonment after hearing the two women would be parted from their young children and they not be able to care for elderly parents.
He was also told the brothers were heavy drinkers who took Class A drugs and would often leave home after arguments.
Mother-of-five Pamela Bainbridge, of Carnation Road, Strood, and mother-of-seven Michelle Bainbridge, of Weatherly Close, Rochester, admitted making a false statement.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Michelle Bainbridge, 36, kept up the pretence between April 2002 and January last year to claim the massive overpayment in income support and housing and council tax benefit.
Care worker Pamela Bainbridge, 38, did the same between April 2005 and December 2007.
Michelle Bainbridge, also a care worker, had married in April 2002 on the date her dishonesty started, pretending they were not living as husband and wife.
Fitzgerald said Pamela Bainbridge had so far repaid £320, while her sister-in-law had not repaid anything.Prosecutor John
Michelle Bainbridge was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work.
Pamela Bainbridge was sentenced to four months suspended for two years and ordered to do 80 hours unpaid work.
They were given two years to each pay £200 costs.
Recorder Reese said he accepted the effect prison would have on their children and parents was part of their remorse.
More by this authorKentOnline reporter