SEAFORD: Woman wrongly claimed benefits worth thousands

A SEAFORD resident was prosecuted by Lewes District Council after they fraudulently claimed more than £2,000 in benefits.

Pauline Gunstone, of Etherton Way, failed to notify the authority that her partner Derek Power had started work.

The change was discovered by a member of staff during a routine visit to the 48-year-old’s address.

She had claimed £1642.07 in Housing Benefit and £557.36 in Council Tax Benefit for a seven month period to which she had no entitlement.

Lewes District Council is seeking repayment of these amounts.

It was Gunstone’s second offence. Back in 2007, Lewes District Council investigated her benefit claims and found that she had failed to notify that she had started work and also that her partner had moved in with her. At this time it was decided that she would not be prosecuted and she agreed to pay an administrative penalty which the council can impose without the need to attend court.

For the most recent offence she was sentenced at Brighton Magistrates Court to a two year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £50 costs.

The judge had considered a community sentence but this was reduced after it was agreed she is currently unfit to work.

Lewes District Council’s anti fraud section investigated more than 200 cases of suspected benefit fraud last year many of which were carried out in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions.

A spokesman for Lewes District Council said, “We encourage the public to identify fraudulent cases by calling our Fraud Hotline on 01273 484067, or our Investigation Section on 01273 484065, or by emailing fraud.section@lewes.gov.uk. All calls are treated with strict confidentiality.”