Lawyer speaks out in anger over prosecution into benefits fraud case

Blackpool Magistrates' Court
Blackpool Magistrates' Court
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A lawyer attacked the decision to prosecute her disabled client for benefit fraud.

Osteo-arthritis sufferer Sonia Beavers, 62, had to sit in a chair during proceedings against her as she wears braces on her hands and knees.

Mrs Beavers, of Whinfield Avenue, Fleetwood, pleaded guilty to two offences of benefit fraud – failing to disclose savings which would have affected her claim for Income Support and Council Tax Benefit.

Her lawyer Jessica Partington told magistrates in Blackpool the savings were not some sort of “secret hoard or stash.”

She said: “They were from her legitimate claim for Disabled Living Allowance as she was saving to get herself a stairlift in her home so she could get around.

“This is a woman who has worked all her life who has been reduced to working one hour a day as a primary school welfare assistant because of her illness.”

“Then in March 2010 her life changed forever. Her hard-working husband was made redundant and found it difficult to find alternative work.

“Mrs Beavers returned home one day to find her husband David hanging in the bathroom.

“Such were her disabilities that she was unable to go to his aid herself. She had to ring for help – what happened completely destroyed her.”

“She started to make her claims for benefit after this.”

The court heard that she was overpaid £6,131 by the Department of Work and Pensions and Wyre Council.

She failed to tell the authorities that she had savings of almost £20,000 in five different accounts but when she was investigated and interviwed she agreed she had been dishonest and immediately repaid the £6,131.

Her lawyer added: ”Taking into account she has paid the money back and that the savings were from a legitimate allowances for her disablement and the dreadful circumstances surrounding her husband’s death we did ask for her to be given a caution.”

“The conviction could well mean her losing her job with children – she only does one hour a day and has to sit down but she loves her work.

“She has admitted straight away she was wrong and all the money has been repaid.”

Beavers was placed on a 12 -month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 costs.