Worthing couple sentenced for benefit fraud

A WORTHING couple have been sentenced for benefit fraud totalling more than £8,000.

Iain Stewart, 46, and Louise Jane Stewart, 41, attended Worthing Magistrates Court’ yesterday (June 18) and pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to report a change of circumstances in order to obtain housing and council tax benefit.

Magistrates sentenced the couple to a conditional discharge for 18 months.

The pair were ordered to pay full prosecution costs incurred by Worthing Borough Council, of £528.75 each.

The court heard the pair, from Eastcourt Road, Worthing, claimed housing and council tax benefit in October 2008.

They claimed their only income was from self-employment as a landscape gardener and a beauty therapist and benefits were given, based on this information.

Following a lengthy and detailed investigation, it was established Stewart had failed to declare additional income from three undeclared periods of paid employment, and his partner failed to report income from two periods of paid employment.

Their benefit claims were re-assessed, based upon the correct information.

As a result, they received £6,159.50 housing benefit and £1,877.32 council tax benefit, making a total of £8,036.82 to which they were not entitled.

Worthing Borough Council will be seeking civil recovery for the total amount of overpaid money.