Benefit fraud is sentenced

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A SUSPENDED prison sentence has been handed down to a Hailsham man who falsely claimed nearly £19,000 in benefits.

Damien Lazell, of The Diplocks, received a total overpayment of £18,948, after putting in claims for different benefits including Council Tax Benefit but failed to disclose he was in receipt of two occupational pensions.

Eastbourne magistrates heard the 57-year-old, who retired from work early due to a back injury, would be repaying the amount.

At a hearing on Tuesday September 4 Lazell, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to three counts of making a false statement to obtain payment.

Anthony Waller, defending, said, “In mid forties he suffered from a back injury and had to retire from work early and got some benefit which he is entitled to.

“But he also in receipt of two occupational pensions. It’s not a huge amount of money.

“He goes through a difficult divorce and moves down to Eastbourne.

“He made a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax and didn’t put on the form the pensions amount. But he put his Disability Living Allowance and incapacity benefit.

“He’s omitted to put it (the pensions) down and he is sorry about that, he is not living a luxurious lifestyle. “He was trying to maintain a relationship with his family in London.

“He was struggling financially and someone said he might be entitled to certain benefits.

“He may well have been and he would have been entitled to something by way of benefits.

Magistrates said they felt the offences went past the custody threshold and sentenced Lazell to eight weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months.

He will also be fitted with an electronic tag and must remain indoors between the hours of 11pm and 5am for a period of eight weeks.