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St Austell woman was paid 'too much in benefits'

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

A ST AUSTELL woman was overpaid more than £4,500 in benefits after telling the authorities she was single, when in fact she was married and living with her husband.

Former teacher Julia McGrath, of Lower Woodside, St Austell, appeared before Bodmin magistrates on Monday to admit three charges of making false representations to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Cornwall Council. They related to a claim for Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) between July 23, 2011, and October 9, 2012, and on September 15, 2011, and a similar charge relating to council tax benefit between July 23, 2011 and September 24, 2012.

The court was told that the offences did not amount to dishonesty but to a failure to disclose information.

Gail Hawksley, for the prosecution, said Mrs McGrath, 58, was claiming benefit as a single person while living with her husband Graham, who was working part-time as an IT lecturer for St Austell College and whom she had married on July 23, 2011. Mrs McGrath was still using her maiden name, Julia Davis, when making the claims.

Interviewed on March 1, 2013, Mrs McGrath told investigators she had claimed JSA as she had run out of money and couldn't find a job. She said her husband had not moved in until 2012, when she became his carer.

Lucy Bryant, for the defence, said Mrs McGrath had no previous convictions and was distraught about the court proceedings.

She had met Mr McGrath in 2010 but they had not moved in together following their marriage because he had formerly been an alcoholic and had been advised that he needed two alcohol-free years before moving in with someone. He had, however, visited her home and stayed, and these visits had become more frequent.

An accident in February 2012 left him wheelchair-bound, and she became his full-time carer. They were now surviving on benefits. There had been no deliberate dishonesty and she had not set out to defraud anyone. The court was told she was paying back the overpayment.

Taking account of the circumstances, her caring role and previous good character, the magistrates conditionally discharged her for two years. Mrs McGrath was ordered to pay £200 in costs.

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