Benefit fraud is always frowned upon when it comes to the long arm of the law, and this month, one man who thought he could cheat the system whilst in employment discovered this the hard way.
65-year-old Terence Hutchings, from Trealaw, Rhondda, claimed nearly £56,000 in benefits over a five-year period, whilst working as a bingo caller in the local area. When he recently appeared at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court in Wales, he claimed he had not declared his job, as he worked less than sixteen hours per week and therefore, thought he wasn’t obliged to do so.
The court heard that Mr. Hutchings thought that employees had to work for a minimum of 16 hours per week before having to declare they were working, and as he only performed 13 hours weekly, he thought he was safe. He had even gone to great lengths to avoid taking on extra shifts so as not to have to declare his employment. The prosecutor, Alexander Greenwood, said Terence was operating under a “mistaken belief,” as any hours he was working should have declared, as well as the fact that his wife was employed as a cleaner by the NHS Trust.
Hutchings, who is a father to two children and has no previous convictions, claimed council tax and housing benefit, pension money, incapacity benefit, and income support, over five years between April 2002 and April 2007. The total value came to almost £56,000. The prosecution described the defendant as “evasive and somewhat vague” when it came to his situation, during an interview that followed a tip-off about his part-time job at Tonypandy’s Top Ten bingo hall.
Hutchings’ defence team told the court Mr. Hutchings was left feeling “utterly crestfallen” by the charges, that he had “never lived the high life,” and was not someone who enjoyed swilling champagne whilst living on state benefits.
The Welsh bingo caller admitted to four counts of benefit fraud, and was given an 8-month suspended sentence, as well as being ordered to complete one-hundred and twenty hours of unpaid work. He is also being made to pay back the money claimed at the weekly rate of £33.40, meaning he will clear his total debts in 30 years time. Richard Twomlow, the Judge, told the defendant that the outcome was “salutary and significant.”
It certainly seems as though the numbers are up for this particular individual. Do you think that the sentencing was fitting?