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Byline: Sandish Shoker

A WOMAN who fraudulently claimed more than pounds 30,000 in benefits has escaped going to jail "by the skin of her teeth".

Elizabeth Ell, of Howcotte Green, Tile Hill, had been warned she could face a minimum of 12 weeks in prison but was let off an immediate custodial sentence after the judge was not convinced she had acted alone in her claims.

Ell, 34, appeared at Coventry Crown Court on Thursday to be sentenced for one count of failing to notify authorities of a change of circumstances when claiming benefits. She pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. Kevin Saunders, prosecuting, said Ell told the Department for Work and Pensions she was a single parent with no other source of income, and had separated from her husband.

Mr Saunders said Ell's husband left her and her children in early 2004, but when he moved back two months later, she failed to inform the relevant authorities.

Ell was also claiming housing and council tax support from Coventry City Council. Between October 2004 and May 2009 she received an overpayment of pounds 13,700 in income support. In the same period she also received overpayments of more than pounds 14,500 in housing benefit and pounds 2,700 in council tax support making a total of pounds 30,942.

Defending, Andis Skudra said: "Her claim wasn't fraudulent from the outset but she decided the only way to secure hers and her children's future was to continue with the claim."

Judge Anthony Barker decided not to send Ell to jail, saying her debts of pounds 35,000 which she is repaying, was a sentence in itself and felt there was a lack of information regarding her partner's involvement. He said: "You have taken a great deal of money from the public for selfish means and it is by the skin of your teeth you are not going to prison today.

"It is with great reluctance I am not sending you to prison but I believe your husband was involved and therefore you should not take full blame and the second reason is I think you regret it and your children will suffer if you go to prison."

Ell was given a six-month sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid community work.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Aug 7, 2010
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