‘Confused’ Italian woman jailed for benefits fraud wins first stage of fight for freedom

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A “CONFUSED” Sunderland woman, jailed for fraudulently claiming benefits in Britain, has won the first stage of her legal fight for freedom.

Vitorio Silvana Condomiti, 39, who was living in Norfolk Street, Sunderland, does not speak any English.

And she was suffering the effects of a blow to the head when she was handed an eight-month jail term at Newcastle Crown Court in February.

She pleaded guilty to making false claims for asylum and benefits, on the basis that she had pretended to be Eritrean when in fact she was an Italian citizen.

Today, Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Green and Mr Justice Edis, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, granted her permission to appeal against that sentence.

Lawyers for Condomiti told the court that she in fact holds dual Eritrean and Italian nationality, with valid passports from both countries.

She had lived in Eritrea all her life and had spent just three weeks in Italy before coming to England, although she held an Italian passport through her father.

Having suffered a head injury, she was found by the police “wandering the streets” and went on to claim benefits as an asylum seeker.

But she was jailed as a fraud when her Italian passport was discovered.

The judges were told by her lawyers that confusion and language problems were at the heart of her case.

She would in any case have been lawfully entitled to the benefits she was awarded had she claimed them as an EU citizen.

Lady Justice Rafferty granted Condomiti permission to appeal and ordered an investigation into her circumstances and the whereabouts of her Eritrean passport.

The judge said she was likely to be freed if evidence could be found to support her account.

She ordered that the case return to the Appeal Court “as a matter of urgency” for a further hearing once the investigations have been concluded.