Mag­is­trate is jailed over £26k ben­e­fit fraud

Mum, 43, claimed she could barely walk, but was caught danc­ing at wed­ding

Stockport Express - - Front Page - BY LYNDA ROUGHLEY AND RE­BECCA DAY

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

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