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 Post subject: Taxi mum fiddles benefit
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 5:42 pm 
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Eastern Daily Press

September 1, 2006

HEADLINE: A taxi driver fraudulently claimed more than £18,000 in benefits to fund her son's £600-a-week drug habit, a court heard.

BYLINE: SMITHA

A taxi driver fraudulently claimed more than £18,000 in benefits to fund her son's £600-a-week drug habit, a court heard.


Mother-of-six Shelagh Harlow, 51, worked for two years while continuing to claim benefits in a bid to stop her son turning to crime to pay for his addiction.

Yesterday, Harlow, of Ringsfield Road, Beccles, escaped a prison sentence when she appeared before Lowestoft Magistrates' Court.

She received a four-month sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work, after pleading guilty. She will also have to repay the money she obtained, and pay £100 costs.

Angus Lyon, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said Harlow first applied for benefits in October 2001.

However, from October 2002 she started work as a driver and radio operator for Beccles and Bungay-based GoldLine Taxis, but failed to notify the authorities she had a job for two years.

Over that period she falsely claimed a total of £18,243 - more than £10,000 from Waveney District Council in housing and council tax benefits and more than £8,000 from the DWP in income support.

Mr Lyon said: "She made a number of declarations that were untrue and she was working as a radio operator and driver for a period of two years. "She failed to notify the department she was working and was in receipt of earnings. She was interviewed about the matter and admitted the offences."

Ross Burrows, for Harlow, said his client committed the fraud to fund her son's addiction to drugs, which cost him up to £600 a week. She did it to stop him turning to crime to fund his habit. Mr Burrows said: "Mrs Harlow got a job to fund her son's drug addiction and always knew she would be caught.

"She didn't want her son to go through the court system by stealing. She felt it was the only way she could help him. "She felt quite hemmed in to a situation. She stopped claiming benefits because she could not go on with it any longer. In terms of the incident itself, it is quite clearly extremely unsophistic-ated. She is petrified of going to prison."

Mr Burrows added Harlow was ashamed of her actions.
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