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Chapelford woman jailed for benefit fraud
7:10am Thursday 24th October 2013 in News
A MUM-OF-THREE has been jailed for six months after stealing more than £50,000 in benefits.
Bernadette Hutchins, aged 39, of Missouri Drive, Chapelford, looked stunned as she was handcuffed in the dock at Halton Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
She said ‘I’ve done nothing wrong’, and ‘who’s going to look after my kids’ as she was lead down to the cells.
Hutchins was found guilty of two charges of benefit theft at a trial on October 1, after she denied the charges.
Prosecuting, Paul Clisby described how the defendant falsely claimed £19,476 in income support, £22,056 in housing benefit, £5,213 in council tax benefit, and £3,970 in employment support allowance, as a single mum between February 2008 and late 2012.
However, husband Michael Hutchins was living with her.
Mr Clisby said: “Mrs Hutchins signed that she understood her duty to report a change in circumstances.
“Mr and Mrs Hutchins formed a common household and Mrs Hutchins was aware she should have notified the council.”
Hutchins said her husband is a long distance lorry driver and slept in his lorry five nights a week, only returning to visit the couple’s three teenage children.
They are aged 13, 18 and 19.
The defendant also said their relationship was over, and they only shared a name as divorce proceedings had yet to be arranged.
However, evidence showed that her husband’s bank records, phone bill and credit card were all registered to the Chapelford address.
He had no alternative abode.
Hutchins still disputes she has done anything wrong, the court heard, a view Magistrates criticised.
They said they were ‘surprised’ by her insistence and there was a concern further fraudulent claims could be made as a result.
Since the allegations were made, Hutchins has experienced money problems and now works in two jobs as a gym coach and cleaner at Gulliver’s World.
She was jailed for 12 weeks on each charge, to run consecutively.
Magistrates said aggravating features were the high amount stolen, length of false claim and refusal to accept guilt.