Benefit cheat who falsely claimed more than £18,000 narrowly avoids a prison sentence

A BENEFIT cheat has narrowly avoided prison after falsely claiming almost £19,000.

Damien Lazell, of The Diplocks, Hailsham was given a suspended sentence for claiming £18,948 of different benefits, including council tax benefit, despite receiving 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 his 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.”

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.