Appeal judges ruled East Lothian mum’s £55k benefits fraud was ‘prolonged course of conscious dishonesty’ which meant jail sentence was ‘amply merited’
Appeal judges upheld a jail sentence for an East Lothian woman who swindled £55,000 in Child Tax Credit payments in a “prolonged course of conscious dishonesty,” ruling that her personal difficulties had to be “truly exceptional” to justify avoiding prison.
Rosanna Anderson had appealed her 12-month prison term after being jailed by sheriff Wendy Sheehan in March for admitting the fraudulent activity which took place over a period of nearly six years - from May 2012 to January 2018.
But the mum-of-six learned earlier this month she would be returned to jail after the appeal was refused.
The 31-year-old, from Tranent, told the Edinburgh Evening News previously she felt trapped in an abusive relationship with an ex partner at the time and needed the money for her family to live. She said she started claiming as a single mother at a time when her ex was not living with her - but knowingly kept the payments going when he returned, claiming he did not help out financially and spent his money on alcohol instead of the children. Ms Anderson said the excess payments she claimed covered 80 percent of the childcare costs she needed to pay while she worked part time. She said she did not lead a lavish lifestyle.
A letter from East and Midlothian Women’s Aid, seen by this newspaper, confirmed Ms Anderson had been supported by Women’s Aid from October 2019, when she left her former partner.
However, an appeal court ruling delivered by Lord Pentland said her personal circumstances would have to be “truly exceptional” to justify a non-custodial sentence in a case where “such a large sum of state benefits had been fraudulently obtained.”
The report said: “The appellant deliberately defrauded the state of a very large amount of benefits over many years.
“She was well aware that she was not entitled to these benefits. Yet she persisted in a prolonged course of conscious dishonesty. We acknowledge the various difficulties that the appellant faced with her former partner, but we do not consider that these were sufficient to justify fraud on such a substantial and sustained scale.”
The report noted that, as the sheriff had observed, it is important to “ensure consistency and predictability” in sentencing in cases of this type and that a custodial sentence was “amply merited.”
The appeal judges also considered the length of sentence and noted that the sheriff took into account personal and family circumstances, including that she would retain her tenancy and that her current partner could care for the children. They said the sheriff selected a sentence which properly reflected this.
They added: “For these reasons we conclude that the appeal must be refused.”
After learning her fate earlier this month, Ms Anderson said she hopes to serve half of her sentence and is also hopeful that some of this will be outside of prison but wearing a tag. She stressed she had no previous convictions.
One local in Tranent said previously that the decision to return Anderson to serve out the remainder of her prison term is “unfortunate but justified.”