A 43-year old woman, who falsely claimed benefits of more than £100,000 over a six year period, has been jailed for 16 months.
Nicola Ann Sheddon of Denfield Avenue, Cardenden, Fife, admitted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month to obtaining £61,544,41 from the Department of Work and Pensions between April 1, 2008, and May 16, 2014, for Income and Employment Support Allowance.
She also admitted that between April 1, 2008, and February 22, 2009, getting £12,636.26 from Edinburgh City Council in Housing and Council Tax Benefit.
Sheddon also pleaded guilty to obtaining £28,509.67 in Housing and Council Tax Benefit from Fife Council between October 5, 2010, and May 4, 2014 - a total of £102,690.34.
Sheriff Michael O’Grady QC was told by Fiscal Depute, Aidan Higgins, that the Department of Work and Pensions had received anonymous information that Sheddon was not a single parent, but had a partner living with her and contributing financially to the household.
The claims were made in respect of premises in Westerhailes Park and Broomfield Crescent in Edinburgh, and Hendry Crescent in Kirkcaldy.
In court today, Sheriff O’Grady, who had deferred sentence for a background report, told Sheddon: “You will understand that this is a very serious matter. It is so in a number of respects. The deceit here may have been a simple one, but the sums are enormous and that deceit was practised for years.
“It seems to be thought in some quarters that crimes like these are victimless, that no one is hurt, that it is really just an accounting exercise. It is not. Far from it.
“Hard-working people pay taxes to Government and with that money governments struggle to provide services such as hospitals, pensions and benefits and they struggle, at least in part, because of people like you. And when they struggle it is not, of course, the well-off and fortunate who suffer, but the sick, the weak and the unlucky”.
Jailing Sheddon for 16 months, Sheriff O’Grady said he was reducing it from two years because of her early plea of guilty.
He told her: “The courts have made it clear in the past, and I make it clear today, that this type of offence is neither trivial not somehow acceptable”.
Defence solicitor, Gayle Addison, said her client was “extremely ashamed and extremely regretful” of her actions.
Sheddon, she added, had not used the money for high living or expensive holidays, but to care for her six children. She had repaid between £2500 to £3000. Ms Addison told Sheriff O’Grady that Sheddon’s 17-year old daughter, who was in court, who have to give up her job to look after her younger sisters. When Sheddon was sentenced, both she and her daughter burst into tears.