A bogus claimant who pocketed thousands of pounds in benefits despite receiving an undeclared pension and having a bank account with more than £40,000 in it, has been sent to prison.
The Court of General Gaol Delivery was told Diana Blakeney was not eligible for more than £30,700 in benefit, which she received between August 2010 and July 2015.
The 56-year-old, from Lord Street in Douglas, was not only receiving her late husband’s occupational pension, but had an Isle of Man Bank account containing £45,000 while she was claiming.
But when the authorities caught up with the defendant, who has no previous convictions, she was far from contrite, defiantly telling them she didn’t need to explain herself and she ‘could not remember’ how many bank accounts she had.
She even told investigators she knew ‘lots of people’ who did not declare bank accounts, adding: ‘Yes, exactly: it’s to hide their money.’ But she hastily retracted this, the court heard.
Questioned further, she said: ‘Whatever, because I won’t have to pay anything back. I’ll be dead before it gets paid back.’
Initially, she claimed to have saved the £45,000 from her benefits, adding: ‘Believe what you want.’
For the prosecution, Rachael Braidwood said Blakeney later said she saved some of the money by selling antiques and jewellery that had belonged to her late mother.
The money, which was later withdrawn from the bank account, was passed to Blakeney’s son for a house deposit, she said.
Ms Braidwood said Blakeney was now repaying the money at £20 per week and the total still outstanding was £29,988.
Defending Blakeney, Pamela Pringle said she had admitted the offences and it was sad to see someone of 56 losing their good character.
She said Blakeney had accepted the allegations and expressed ‘genuine remorse’ - an assertion challenged by Deemster Alastair Montgomerie, who cited Blakeney’s evasive and sometimes combative comments at interview.
Mrs Pringle said her client’s claim had started out as a geniune one and she pointed out the money was not used to fund an extravagant life style but was instead given away to her son. She said Blakeney had been saving to help her son financially long before the fraud was perpetrated.
She also emphasised the defendant was now making repayments which were a substantial proportion of her £54 per week disability living allowance. She said if Blakeney were imprisoned she would be unable to make repayments, nor could she care for her father-in-law who was in his 80s and ill. She further claimed it could have a devastating effect on her second marriage, which Deemster Mongomerie challenged.
Blakeney admitted 12 offences of benefit fraud between 2010 and 2015.
Sentencing her, Deemster Montgomerie said the sheer quantity of money involved and the extended period of the deception were both aggravating factors. He added: ‘We would all like to give our children a substantial deposit but the bottom line is we do not do it with public money.’
However, he said the probation service believed her remorse to be genuine, she had a good character reference and had admitted the offences.
‘It is regrettable you have lost your previous good character,’ he said.
But he added: ‘The custodial threshold has been passed and I do not consider there is sufficient reason in this case to warrant my suspending the sentence, but I do take on board your counsel’s submission that it should be a short, sharp shock.’
She was sentenced to four months’ custody for each offence, all to run concurrently. No costs order was made.