Judge says benefits cheat was 'doing her best'

Spares Geraldine Boulter jail

Geraldine Boulter leaving Cardiff crown court - A mother who cheated the benefits system of �78,000 because her partner gambled and drank away the money he earned, has been given a suspended sentence by a judge who said she was doing the best she could for her family.Geraldine Boulter, 44 and put in the dock following a tip-off to the authorities, was also told by Judge Philip Richards that perhaps she could use her experience to help others in the same position.Cardiff Crown Court heard how she started claiming in 1996 because she was �single, unemployed and incapacitated�.

A £78,000 benefits cheat has been spared jail after a judge said she had little alternative.

Geraldine Boulter, 44, started legitimately claiming benefits in 1996, but failed to tell the authorities when she later set up home with plumber Martin Davies.

However, Cardiff Crown Court heard that Davies spent all his money on drinking and gambling, leaving Boulter with too little money to support her seven-year-old twins.

According to Wales Online, the court received numerous letters of support for Boulter, including one from the headmistress at her children's school which spoke of her in 'glowing terms'.

She admitted benefit fraud but was handed a suspended 16-week sentence after judge Philip Richards concluded that she was doing the best she could for her family.

"You made sure they did not suffer from the difficult situation in which you found yourself, in effect, as a single parent," he said.

"If it was not for the circumstances, it is highly unlikely you would ever have transgressed the law at all."

While living with Davies between 2004 and 2013, Boulter received more than £40,000 in income support, over £31,000 in housing benefit and a reduction of £6,347 on her council tax bill.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions received a tip-off that she was not, as she claimed, living alone, and began an investigation. And paperwork from banks, the DVLA and Davies's employer - KS Barry Plumbing and Heating - revealed that he was using her address.

Boulter initially denied that Davies was living there, but later admitted it and began paying back the money.

Benefit fraud on this scale usually attracts a prison sentence - two years ago, for example, Staffordshire grandmother Kay Wilson was jailed for a month after fraudulently claiming a similar amount. And Liverpudlian Samuel Bennett got three months for a similar offence late last year.

However, judges are sometimes lenient. In February last year, former GMTV presenter Louise Port was allowed to walk free after fraudulently claiming £75,000 in housing benefits. The judge suspended her 18-month sentence for two years, saying: "I don't think you would have ever committed offences like these if your life had remained on track."

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