Northamptonshire mum-of-five who over-claimed £88k in benefits 'had her children in mind'

Lisa Duffy received a suspended sentence at Northampton Crown Court yesterday, after over-claiming her benefits for six years.
Lisa Duffy received a suspended sentence at Northampton Crown Court yesterday, after over-claiming her benefits for six years.

A mother-of-five from Northamptonshire, who claimed £88,000 in overpaid benefits by failing to tell the Government her partner had been living with her for six years, said she did it for her children.

Lisa Duffy pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstance in her benefits in March and was sentenced for the offences yesterday.

Between 2008 and 2014, the 44-year-old, of Station Road, Cogenhoe, over-claimed a total of £88,278 in income support, child tax credits and housing benefit - because she did not tell the DWP her partner was living in the local authority house with her. During that time, they had two children together, now aged four and seven.

Yesterday, Northampton Crown Court heard how investigations into her partner in 2014 revealed he had been using her house as his address for making a loan application.

Under police interview, Duffy accepted that her partner stayed at the property, but not all the time.

Sentencing her yesterday to an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years, recorder Graham Huston, said: "I have to make it clear, you should have considered the consequences of what might happen. But sending you to prison today would have dire consequences on the family."

Recorder Huston said he could understand why Duffy felt she was not in a "permanent relationship" because of their frequent break-ups.

Duffy, who has had the threat of prison hanging over her since the middle of 2014, has already begun paying the amount back and has cleared just over £3,000 of her debt.

In mitigation for her, Rebecca Penfold argued the mum-of-five should not be sent to prison for the welfare of her youngest children.

Duffy had also suffered recent personal tragedy after her mother died from being "swept out to sea" in October, the court heard.

Miss Penfold said the defendant had a history of financial difficulties and did not want her youngest children to experience the same.

"Rather than thinking through her decisions, she failed to declare the common household," said Miss Penfold.

"It's not an excuse, but it was always with her children in mind."