A WOMAN falsely claimed more than £23,000 in benefits after becoming addicted to drugs following the murder of her partner.
Michelle Margaret Manley, 32, of Park Court off Fountain Lane in Frodsham pleaded guilty to claiming incapacity benefit dishonestly as a result of failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when she started work.
Rob Youds, prosecuting, told West Cheshire magistrates how Manley had continued claiming benefits she was not entitled to over a period of four years and five months.
She had claimed the benefit from 2003 to 2012 but during that time had had various jobs between 2006 and 2011 at businesses including Bargain Booze and Vodafone.
Manley was interviewed by the DWP as a result of failing to declare a change in circumstances and found to have received overpayments totalling £23,625.
Mr Youds said Manley, who had started receiving the payments after her partner was murdered in Chester had accepted.
Manley, who had no previous convictions, told the DWP she had failed to inform them of her change in circumstances because she had become addicted to drugs following her partner’s murder and needed the money to pay for them.
Manley had now set up a repayment plan, Mr Youds said, and was paying back the money at a rate of £18 per week although there was still ‘a significant amount outstanding’.
Steve Cooper, defending, said his client was a lady of previous good character.
The court would note, he said, that the trigger for her crime had been the death of her partner in ‘the most grievous circumstances’.
The probation service had said it ‘must have affected her’.
“A lot of people were prosecuted,” Mr Youds said, “and as a coping method, she turned to illicit drugs. She took drugs from 2003 until 2011 at which point she managed to rid herself of them.”
But her life had been ‘chaotic’.
“She’s very clear and open about why she committed the offences,” said Mr Cooper.
“She did it to support her habit when in difficulties emotionally and on other levels.”
He said Manley was now remarried and was rid of difficulties with regard to drugs.
The probation service had not recommended any rehabilitation because she had managed to sort her own problems out.
Manley was sentenced to eight weeks custody, suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service. She was told to pay a victim surcharge of £80 and £85 court costs.
See full story in the Chester Leader