Mother-of-three, 37, who pocketed £38,000 in benefits by claiming she was a single parent despite living with partner is spared jail after saying cash was to feed and clothe her children
- Sharon Meehan, 37, failed to tell authorities her partner had moved back in
- The mother-of-three pocketed £19,000 a year in benefits and tax credits
- Judge said: ‘Had you been leading the high life, you could still be going to prison’
- Meehan was spared jail and sentenced instead to 180 hours of unpaid work
Sharon Meehan outside Bolton Crown Court
A mother who pocketed £38,000 in state handouts by falsely claiming she was a single parent has escaped jail after saying she used the money to feed and clothe her children.
Sharon Meehan, 37, illegally pocketed housing benefit plus child and working tax credits after failing to tell the authorities her partner Lee Shuker had moved back into her home to help pay the bills.
Meehan was caught in September 2017 after investigators from the Department of Work and Pensions noticed Mr Shuker, a groundsman, had transferred his car insurance and bank details to Meehan’s home in Wigan, Greater Manchester. He also gave Meehan’s address following the birth of the couple’s third child.
At Bolton Crown Court, Meehan pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between May 2015 and August 2017.
She was given 180 hours unpaid work after she insisted she had not been leading a ‘high-flying lifestyle’ with the £19,000 a year extra she was being overpaid by the taxpayer – and used the money for her family. One of her children is over 18.
Sentencing Judge Richard Gioserano said the delay in bringing Meehan to court was one reason for letting her go free saying she had the ‘threat of prison hanging over her head.’
He told her: ‘This is a case of fraud the scale of which could easily result in a prison sentence. You took a considerable amount of public money but I’m aware this was not money spent on a high-flying lifestyle.
Meehan was given 180 hours unpaid work after she insisted she had not been leading a lavish lifestyle with the £19,000 a year extra she was being overpaid by the taxpayer
‘If it had been you would be going to prison but I understand it was spent for the most part on your children. You accept you were dishonest until you were caught when you took full responsibility, and have began the process of paying the money back.
‘You are previously of good character with no previous convictions. For some reason you were left for 18 months with this hanging over your head fearing you could go to prison. For anyone, let alone a mother of three children, that is a sentence in and of itself.
‘In another case of events, had you been leading the high life, you could still be going to prison. But you are devoted to your children.
‘But in no small part due to the inexplicable delay in prosecution, the sentence is a community order. If you don’t do these hours of unpaid work you go to prison. But if you do the hours then that’ll be the end of this and you can get on with your life.’
The court heard she has paid back just £1,000 since she was caught more than 18 months ago.
At Bolton Crown Court (pictured), Meehan pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between May 2015 and August 2017
Earlier Helen Longworth, prosecuting, said the offences began after Meehan patched up her relationship with Mr Shuker in 2015.
Miss Longworth added: ‘She is the mother of three children, two of which are under 18. She had lived as a single parent and so made an appointment to apply for benefits and at that time there was no indication that was this incorrect.
‘She was made aware that if her living circumstances changed she was to inform the DWP. Her circumstances did indeed change but she failed to inform the department. The father of her children, Mr Lee Shuker, moved into her house to be with her and the children. He was employed until February 2017, and then again from April 2017 onwards.
‘There are several examples showing an awareness by the couple that changes of address must be registered, and that he was in fact living at the defendant’s home. When the birth of the youngest daughter was registered the address showed both parents and at the defendant’s address.
‘Mr Shuker’s car insurance policy was addressed there and they changed the details on his bank account from his former address to hers. The defendant made a full admission immediately upon it being brought to her attention. During her interview Ms Meehan said her relationship with Mr Shuker was on/off but did admit that he had moved in and helped pay bills.’
The court heard the total figure illegally pocketed by Meehan was £38,640.85
In mitigation, defence lawyer Martin Pizzey said: ‘She has issues but her response to this situation has been very positive. She has improved her position and has started to repay the debt – just over £1,000 has been paid back so far.’