A BARMAID who wrongly claimed tens of thousands of pounds in benefits over 10 years has walked free from court.
Victoria Green, who claimed more than £49,000, was given a suspended sentence after Durham Crown Court heard she could have legitimately claimed £27,000.
“This means there is a hypothetical loss of £22,000,” said Caroline Goodwin, prosecuting.
“This hypothetical loss is relevant to which category this case fall into as regards sentencing guidelines.”
The court heard Green claimed jobseekers, council tax, housing benefit and tax credits while working part-time at the New Silksworth Royal British Legion Club in Sunderland.
Ms Goodwin added: “The claim started in 1998 or 1999 after Green lost her previous job in a pub.
“Thereafter she signed annual returns saying her circumstances had not changed, even after they had changed.
“She was discovered by a cross-department referral check which threw up anomalies in her overall claims position.”
Green, 37, of Warkworth Crescent, in Seaham, admitted 10 charges of making a false statement to obtain a benefit, all between 2000 and 2010.
Peter Schofield, defending, said: “She has only ever worked very few hours each week and wasn’t aware such a small income should be declared.
“There is no evidence of high living, she was just making ends meet and looking after her 15-year-old son.
“Ms Green has found the proceedings very stressful and she attributes her conviction for drink-driving in 2010 to the worry of appearing in court.”
The Recorder, Mr Ian Atherton, sentenced Green to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and 60 hours of community work.
The recorder told her: “This claim began as a legitimate one, but it became dishonest.
“I have had regard to the hypothetical loss when placing your case in the sentencing guidelines.
“The law says you must be punished, but I will make the community work order a nominal one because you are the sole carer for your son.”
Green must pay £750 towards prosecution costs.
The court heard civil action is being taken against Green for the recovery of the overpaid benefits.