A mother-of-five was told by a judge she deserved a suspended prison sentence for conning tax-payers out of nearly £20,000 in a benefit fraud which was dishonest from the outset.
Cheeky Louise Tonks, 38, pretended to be a lone parent by contacting a Department of Work and Pensions call centre in October 2010 claiming her husband had left her with five children aged two to 17.
She followed that up with a formal interview and signed forms claiming she was getting no money from David Tonks, or elsewhere.
For two-and-a-half years she carried on the pretence of living separately first living in Marshall Avenue and Richmond Street, Bridlington, with Mr Tonks in the same household.
Mrs Tonks, now of Station Avenue, Filey, appeared for sentence at Hull Crown Court (Monday October 13) having pleaded guilty to two charges of making false statements to obtain benefits between October 2010 and April 2013.
Crown barrister Jayne Bryan said Tonks had not declared she was married to David Tonks and living in the same household for two and a half years.
She added Mrs Tonks was asked on three separate occasions for confirmation she was not in receipt of other income. She was given £9,047 in Income Support, £8,207 in Housing Benefit and £1,920 in council tax rebate.
“The total over payment was £19,182.
Mrs Bryan said financial investigators for the DWP discovered Mr Tonks had been paying bills for gas electricity and Sky TV at Mrs Tonk’s different addresses. When interviewed by the police she minimised the fraud claiming she received £300 a month from Mr Tonks for the children and Mr Tonks moved back in August 2012.
“She said she did not declare his support, claiming the relationship was on and off.
Defence barrister Charlotte Baines said “She is still in an extremely abusive relationship.
“Six week before she pleaded guilty she suffered at the hands of her husband’s violence.
“She is in a very fragile state. She has been assessed on a domestic abuse course and the eventual aim is to get out of an abusive marriage. This affected her judgement.”
She confirmed she was repaying the frauds at a rate of £120 a months from her benefits as she was still not working.
Mrs Baines said jailing her would split the family with daughters aged 19 and six and two boys aged 14 and 16.
Sentencing Recorder Sarah Dodd said “I have to deal with you for benefit fraud of just under £20,000. It took place over two and a half years and was dishonest from the outset.
“Even when the interview with the police took place you minimised what you did.”
She said her only decision was whether, or not, to jail her, but said she had to take account of her children. She gave Tonks an 18-month suspended prison sentence, 120-hours unpaid work in the community and 10-days specified activity on a women’s project.