Only 3% of benefits cheats actually go to jail

Martin Rickett/PA Wire

It's all well and good for the Coalition to tell us that it is going to crack down on benefit cheats but when fraud and error have cost us an extra £200million in just this past year then news that those who are caught are mostly escaping punishment shows just how effective that 'crack down' is.

It seems that jail is no longer considered a deterrent by our court system as last year, from the 6,300 people convicted of benefit fraud – that is stealing our money – only 203 were locked up. That figure is just 3%.
The rest basically got away with it.

For among the fines and suspended prison sentences handed out, 42% of those convicted were given community services – which are basically pointless as a deterrent – while 17% were given a conditional discharge, ie: a slap on the wrist.

What sort of message?
So you'd have to say that even if you got caught ripping off the taxpayer, the likelihood of going to prison was minimal. What sort of message does that send out?

And we're not talking small beer here. There's the guy from Hampstead, a posh part of London, who claimed £11,000 fraudulently, was caught and given just a suspended sentence and an order to pay the money back.

So far, the taxpayer has been returned just £1,400 despite the fact that this guy is now working as a £37,000-a-year computer consultant. At least he seems to be over the 'anxiety and depression' that formed the basis of his claim in the first place.

Then there's a mother-of-three in Wales who claimed £6,000 saying she was too ill to even chop vegetables. Meanwhile, she went skydiving, dancing with her partner and worked in a cafe for cash-in-hand. Needless to say she escaped without any real punishment – a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service.

It makes you wonder whether honesty really is the best policy.

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