Norwich couple falsely claimed thousands in benefits

Christine CunninghamA couple were yesterday said by a judge to have 'cheated the public purse' by falsely claiming thousands of pounds worth of benefits.Christine Cunningham

A couple were yesterday said by a judge to have 'cheated the public purse' by falsely claiming thousands of pounds worth of benefits.

Kathy Coldwell, 32, falsely claimed more than �23,000 over five years by pretending to be a single parent while living with a previous partner in Norwich, and then continued the deception with her current husband Jeffrey, whom she married in 2006, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Her husband, Jeffrey, 42, was also found guilty of aiding and abetting his wife to obtain more than �5,000 worth of benefits between October 2006 and June 2007. He helped her pretend she was a tenant of a home at Greenhills, Costessey near Norwich, when in fact he was her husband as well as landlord of the property.

David Jugnarain prosecuting said that Kathy Coldwell received �450 a month for the rent of the property which was in fact owned by her husband.

He said that Jeffrey Coldwell had helped her by providing South Norfolk District Council with a fake tenancy agreement. He said that Kathy Coldwell had also falsely claimed a �500 maternity grant from the Department of Work and Pensions which is intended for single mothers.

However in July 2007, he said Kathy Coldwell had phoned the DWP and SNDC to say she no longer wanted to claim benefits and was living at no fixed address, in Norwich. He said: 'This was to avoid detection.'

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He said in fact the couple had brought a property into which they had moved.

Kathy Coldwell, who lives with her husband at The Glebe, Stibbard, near Fakenham, admitted obtaining a money transfer by deception and falsely claiming housing and council tax benefits.

Sentencing them, Judge Paul Downes said: 'This court has to take a serious view of people that cheat the public purse which is what you have done.'

He gave mother of three Kathy Coldwell a nine-month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered her to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

He told her husband that he was much less involved although he had played a significant part: 'You were being deliberately dishonest.'

Judge Downes gave him a six-week jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to do 150 hours unpaid work.

A confiscation hearing for the couple will be held at a later date.

Andrew Oliver, for Kathy Coldwell, said 'She accepts she has behaved in a dishonest way for what amounts to a number of years however, she had not spent the money on high living but on day to day expenses.'

He said that her claim had started out as honest.

Jonathan Morgans, for Jeffrey Coldwell, said his involvement was limited and he had never claimed a benefit and was of previous good character: 'He is someone who has always been in work, he will never return to be before the court.'