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Benefits cheat mum lied to claim £7,000

Woman who was working at care homes guilty of seven frauds

Benefits cheat Donnamarle Derrick
Benefits cheat Donnamarie Derrick

A single mum pretended to be jobless so she could fraudulently claim more than £7,000 benefits, a court has been told. Donnamarie Derrick, of Partridge Close, Herne Bay, conned the taxman for almost two years, raking in housing benefit, income support, carer’s allowance and jobseeker’s allowance. But the 38-year-old had held jobs at two care homes in the town — Favorita and Orchard House while claiming. She appeared before Canterbury Magistrates’ Court on Monday and admitted seven counts of fraud between October 2011 and August 2013. Prosecutor Neil Sweeney said Derrick was questioned about why she was claiming the benefits while failing to declare she was in employment. He said:

“It is my belief she was fraudulent from the outset. She failed to declare the change in her circumstances for jobseeker’s allowance, carer’s allowance and housing benefits. As a result an overpayment arose totalling £7,151.11.”

Defending, Jennie Ostridge said Derrick took the jobs “out of desperation”.

“She accepts that she has done wrong and understands the need to be punished,” she added. “When these offences were brought to light she admitted she felt relieved. She can move on and get this matter dealt with. She always knew that this was going to happen.”

Under sentencing guidelines Derrick could have faced a 36-week prison sentence or a 12-month community order for unpaid work. But magistrates chose not to opt for either, acting on the recommendations of a report by the probation service, which said Derrick had experienced difficulties with the birth of her youngest child. It said:

“The offences are very much linked to her financial constraints. She has brought up her children after’ a number of years in a particularly emotional, abusive and violent previous relationship, with a former partner who was involved in Class A drug use.”

Tearful

“At the moment she is in employment for 16 hours a week at a supermarket but she is on statutory maternity leave until May. Given the difficulty with her pregnancy and caesarean section I am not able to propose unpaid work.”

Addressing a tearful Derrick, chairman of the bench David Griffiths said:

“We have watched you being terrified in the dock. We should let nothing disguise the fact that this is the theft of £7,000. Normally there is a punishment attached, especially when the crime involves so much money, but in these circumstances we are not going to make a punishment for you because of your previous good character, your early guilty plea and your obvious genuine remorse. We don’t think you would have done this normally. You have been driven by extreme measures. We don’t think it’s likely you will be here again.”

Derrick was given a community order for one year along with a year-long supervision order. It requires her to attend women’s group meetings for 12 weeks and two one-to-one sessions to help her with finances.

Herne Bay Gazette, March 12th 2015

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