Former Fife woman falsely claimed £70,000 in benefits

The case was heard at Dundee Sheriff Court
The case was heard at Dundee Sheriff Court

A woman who managed to scam £70,000 in benefits while living in Tayport avoided jail today (Wednesday) – after a sheriff told her “prison would not be an adequate punishment”.

Sarah Alison (34) raked in the huge sum between April 2009 and March 2013 - the equivalent of £17,500 a year.

She has to accept that the sentence I’m going to offer her may be more difficult than simply packing her bags and going to jail

She was initially charged with defrauding the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) out of more than £130,000 over almost ten years - but the Crown accepted her guilty plea to the lower amount.

But despite the huge sum, a sheriff said that “in reality, the time she would spend in custody does not impose adequate punishment”.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard Alison, a mother-of-three, claimed she was a single mother living alone at an address in Linksfield, Tayport.

But in reality her partner, Graham Thomson, was living with her and was in full-time paid employment.

That meant she was not entitled to the income support, council tax and housing benefits she claimed from the DWP and Fife Council.

In all, she claimed £60,000 in income support and £10,000 in housing and council tax handouts.

Fiscal depute Vicki Bell told the court: “There are no previous convictions for this accused.

“The Crown move for sentence.”

Alison, of St Fillans Road, Dundee, pleaded guilty on indictment to two charges under the Social Security Administration Act.

Defence solicitor Anne Duffy said: “There are three children - including one aged 14, and she is that child’s main carer.

“He has severe learning difficulties, ADHD and other conditions and is highly dependent on her.

“I’ve advised her that custody is almost inevitable in these proceedings.”

Sheriff George Way imposed a community payback order with three years supervision, 230 hours of unpaid work and a restriction of liberty order confining her to her home address from 9pm to 7am for seven months.

He said: “The guidelines state that for a sustained fraud an appropriate sentence may be in the region of two years.

“In this case, by the time I take into account the fact she has adjusted a plea and the early release provisions, in reality the length of time she would spend in custody does not impose adequate punishment.

“The impact on the children in this case of her being in custody for a matter of a few months would in itself be disproportionate.

“However, she has to accept that the sentence I’m going to offer her may be more difficult than simply packing her bags and going to jail.

“These crimes are easy to commit and hard to detect.”