Magistrate is jailed over £26k benefit fraud
Mum, 43, claimed she could barely walk, but was caught dancing at wedding
Former JP Sandra Howell pictured outside court, far right, and right, at captured on CCTV at the Trafford Centre
AMAGISTRATE cheated the benefits system by pretending she could barely walk – despite being seen dancing at her own wedding and walking around the Trafford Centre, a court heard.
Single mum Sandra Howell, who sentenced people to prison in her role as a JP in Stockport, has now been jailed for lying about her disabilities.
The 43-year-old was claiming thousands of pounds in higher rate Disability Living Allowance while secretly working as a domestic cleaner.
Howell was in a wheelchair for each day of the trial at Liverpool Crown Court, but jurors were shown footage of her walking unaided around the court when nobody was watching.
Jurors took less than two hours to find her guilty of two fraud offences.
Howell had denied the offences, which spanned three-and-ahalf years and involved a total of £26,539.
Judge David Aubrey QC said: “Between January 2011 and July 2016 you are sitting as a magistrate at Stockport magistrates court in accordance with your oath that you had taken to do right to all manner of people.
“You were administering the law, presiding over cases and sitting in judgement on those before you, no doubt on occasions having to determine whether the evidence was so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified for a particular defendant before you and the bench.
“No doubt on occasions having defendants in front of you charged with offences for which you now fall to be sentenced.
“During much of that time while you were supposedly administering the law you were breaking the law, repeatedly committing criminal acts by defrauding the state, the DWP by making flagrant dishonest representations by gross exaggeration of your health issues in order to secure benefits that you were not entitled to. You were stealing from the state.”
Sentencing Howell, of Stockport Road, Marple, to nine months in jail, the judge told the court her claim forms were ‘riddled with falsities and dishonesty’.
Martine Snowdon, prosecuting, told the court how Howell told the benefits agency that ‘she was unable to work because of her disability following a road traffic accident in 2007’.
She told the court that Howell claimed that she had falls every day, couldn’t go to the toilet on her own and struggled to get up and down the stairs.
In her December 2014 claim form she said she ‘was always in pain. The pain is similar to a boiling pan of water about the simmer and when it boils then I have to stop. It happens within seconds of walking’.
Ian Metcalfe, defending, said that Howell has made some repayments to the DWP.
Howell, who sat in court with a large bottle of morphine alongside her, denied she had exaggerated her health problems.
●●Sandra Howell outside court, and inset, at the Trafford Centre