Thursday, 21 May 2009

So no arrests yet, then ....

I always imagined that once the police suspect that criminals know they're being investigated, a quick arrest and search is mandated to prevent the destruction of evidence or creation of false alibis. Still, I expect that law doesn't apply to MPs. How differently might a crime report in my local paper have read if the accused was an MP ...

A joint investigation by Lewisham Council and the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has led to the successful prosecution of a woman who defrauded nearly £43,000 in benefits from them.

An investigation by the Fraud Squad has led to the dropping of charges against an MP who defrauded tens of thousands in expenses as 'not being in the public interest'.

Woollon, of Firhill Road in Catford, was found to be falsely claiming Income Support and Housing Benefit by declaring she lived alone when in fact her boyfriend lived with her. She defrauded Lewisham Council of £26,030.54 in Housing Benefit and the DWP of £16,749.80 in Income Support.

Jeff Tune was found to be falsely claiming expenses by mis-declaring where he lived. He defrauded the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds.

Tony McNulty, Minister of State of Employment and Welfare Reform, said: "Benefit thieves have to understand that they will not get away with it. Working together with local authorities and the police we have a range of powers to investigate and with the support of the public we bring benefit thieves to justice.

“This is an excellent example of our success at tackling benefit theft when we work closely with other agencies such as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the police and our partners in local authorities.”

Bridget Prentice, a Minister of State at the Department of Justice, said: "Unfortunately, it's human nature for people to forget details such as where they live or who lives with them or what they're entitled to, and MPs should not be penalised for having made honest mistakes, even if they have cost the taxpayer millions."

Woollon was sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on 17 March. She had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of false accounting, contrary to section 17 (1) (1b) of the Theft Act 1968. She also pleaded guilty to the charge of obtaining money transfers by deception, also contrary to the Theft Act 1968.

Charges against Tune of false accounting, contrary to section 17 (1) (1b) of the Theft Act 1968 and of obtaining money transfers by deception, also contrary to the Theft Act 1968, were dropped as 'not being in the public interest'.

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