Norwich judge in plea over benefit cheats

A judge today urged councils to take action to get public money back from benefit cheats after hearing how a Norwich woman fiddled �3,305 from the state by not declaring she had inherited �29,000.

Sylve Provot, 59, who was claiming council tax and housing benefit from the city council as well as income support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) failed to notify the authorities when she inherited 34,000 euros, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Provot, left, of Clover Court, Sprowston, admitted failing to notify the change in circumstances but her case was adjourned after the court heard she has spent all the money to pay off debts and loans.

Judge Peter Jacobs said it was public money which had been defrauded and the cash had to be repaid – especially at a time when everyone, including local authorities, is facing cutbacks.

'This is �3,300 of public money. If this was not public money people would not be so relaxed about it. I want this money back. We are all going through the mill at this time with tax rises and everyone facing cuts.'

However, he accepted Provot would not be sent to prison for the offence but adjourned the case until June 17 for a confiscation hearing to see if she had any hidden assets to enable the money to be quickly repaid.

'I want from the defendant a full account of where all the money has gone.'

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Yvonne Blake for Norwich City City Council and DWP said it was only at the court hearing she learned Provot had spent all the money.

'The first I heard she had disposed of her assets was today.'

Michael Clare for Provot, said she had used the money to pay off debts and loans and said: 'The money went on a number of debts. She has now not got a penny to her name.'

He said that usually in cases such as this arrangements were made with the DWP and councils to pay back the cash.

'She knows she has to pay it back.'

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: 'Following the judge's direction we will be carrying out a financial investigation to establish if she has the finances to repay the money sooner rather than later.'

Provot is a former nurse and care worker who used to teach the study and analysis of handwriting, graphology, in Norwich. She recently set up a friendship and support group for women, The Right To Be You, which was described as

a confidential, non-judgemental group which welcomes all ages of women irrespective of status or sexuality.