When it comes to certain types of crime, it may be that a certain type of person is more readily associated with the crime. In recent years, due to a continued campaign by various parts of the media, there has been a great stigma attached to benefit fraud and crime.
Clearly all acts of fraud and crime are bad, because they have victims and impact on the lives and welfare or people all around the country, but when it comes to the representation of people that commit benefit fraud, there is often a level of nastiness with respect to the people who are usually highlighted for committing benefit fraud.
In the build-up to the General Election of 2015, there has been a widespread attack on immigrants with UKIP and other far-right campaigners attempting to claim that they are the people carrying out high levels of benefit fraud.
There has also been a number of TV shows in recent years, peddling in a form of “poverty porn”, showcasing people and families supposedly making a tremendous living out of scamming or “working” the benefit system. There has almost been a divide and conquer style approach by many people in the United Kingdom when it comes to the depiction of benefit fraud.
One thing it is important to remember that benefit fraud is not a crime that is only carried out by one type of person or by one social class, benefit fraud can be carried out by anyone.
Fraud is an action that anyone can undertake
This has been reinforced in Gringley recently when a prominent member of the Gringley community has been found guilty of conducting a benefit fraud worth a value of £13,000. Jayne Linda Bowskill has been spared for her actions but there is no doubt that this will spark off debate about whether the same sort of punishment would be handed out to someone from a lesser background or who wasn’t so well known in their local community.
We would all like to think that the justice system was able to provide justice, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly but there are no doubt many people around the country who have their own thoughts on the matter and who will believe that someone from a different background would have been treated differently.
Bowskill pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and to using a false instrument with the intent that it would be genuine. Her actions saw her supply two forged tenancies, and then altering the documents, in order to receive housing benefit.
Sometimes additional and incorrect housing benefit can be obtained by mistake or by being ignorant of the law but in this case, there was a clear plan to deliberately defraud a local authority and obtain funds that weren’t owed to a person.
Good deeds don’t allow for someone to carry out fraudulent activities
The court was informed that Bowskill was a key component of the local community who raised money for the school in the village and who supported the parish council.
However, the court was also informed that back in 2011, the pub that Bowskill owned was struggling and as she feared that she would be unable to pass credit checks to obtain finance for additional funding, she created a plot to swindle money alongside a customer.
The court heard Bowskill was an upstanding member of the community who worked with the parish council and raised money for the village school.
But in 2011 her pub business was failing and, fearing she would fail credit rating checks, she cooked up a plot with a customer which would eventually lead to Bowskill receiving close to £13,000 in incorrect benefit payments.
In defence, Andrew Osborne admitted that his client attempted a very unsophisticated style of fraud, using Tippex to remove names from the document. He said; “The biggest kick in the pants was she realised in the interview that if she had told the truth, she would have got the money anyway. The situation she finds herself in now is completely unnecessary. It shows the level of unsophistication and naivety involved.”
After the tenancy agreement had been changed, all of the supplied information and details were correct. The court handed out a 26 week prison sentence which has been suspended for a year. There was also an instruction to pay £85 in costs and a victims surcharge of £80.
The Director of Corporate Resources at Bassetlaw District Council, Ros Theakstone, released a statement, saying; “Benefit fraud is a crime and people need to appreciate that where appropriate the police can and will get involved. I am delighted that we have been able to work with Notts Police in bringing this prosecution and this sentence sends a clear message to the public that benefit cheats will get caught.”
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.