A Newmarket woman paraded her relationship on Facebook while claiming benefits as a single parent, a court has heard.
Sophie Rayment, 22, said she was the only adult living at her property in George Lambton Avenue enabling her to claim £13,058 in housing and council tax benefits and income support.
However, magistrates in Bury St Edmunds heard there was ‘compelling evidence’ she had been living with her partner, Karl Knappett, who was in full time work, during the 22-month claim period. Rayment admitted two charges of failing to notify of a change in circumstances in relation to income support, and housing and council tax benefits from November 2012 to September 2014.
Prosecuting, Lauren Bond said the couple’s Facebook profiles showed ‘compelling evidence’ that they were living together with their son, with photographs of them together in and out of the house and references to their relationship. There were also a number of documents including electoral role information and gas bills which indicated Mr Knappett was living at the house.
At interview Rayment denied she was in a relationship with Mr Knappett and that they were living together when she made her initial claim, but conceded that ‘friends and family would see them as a couple’ and eventually accepted they were living together.
Ms Bond said: “The evidence suggests they were living together as a couple from the outset. We are dealing with an offence which has continued over a significant period of time with a significant overpayment.”
Mitigating Rayment said she made her initial claim after having to leave her job. “We just went downhill, my other half and I had no money coming in and we were struggling,” she said. “We have never had much money, and our economic situation is still difficult.”
The court heard that although Rayment has started repaying the council tax benefit, none of the income support or housing benefit overpayments had yet been recovered.
Sentencing Rayment to an eight week jail term suspended for a year, magistrate Jim Spencer told her: “You have every encouragement to start paying off the debt and get this behind you.”
Rayment was also ordered to pay costs of £300 and £80 victim surcharge.