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Husband and wife jailed over £144k benefit fraud

Husband and wife jailed over £144k benefit fraud

Friday 12 November 2021

Husband and wife jailed over £144k benefit fraud


A husband and wife have each been sent to prison for three years for committing one of the biggest benefit frauds that the island has ever seen.

Over nine years, Kelly Anne and Adrian Mark Bradley fraudulently received over £144,000 of Income Support based on the fact that Mr Bradley was not living at Kelly Anne's St. Clement home, when in fact he was.

The fraud had started in April 2010, when Mr Bradley (57) did indeed move out after being accused of and admitting to longstanding infidelity. 

Mrs Bradley (55) then rang the Social Security Office to tell them that her husband had cleared their bank account, stopped her access and left.

Her income support was increased from £90 to £449 a week as a consequence.

However, Mr Bradley returned to the household in Grève d’Azette a few weeks later and although he soon found out that his wife’s level of benefit had increased, the couple failed to tell the authorities that he was back.

On subsequent forms and declarations to the Income Support team, the couple maintained their deception. 

Mrs Bradley made at least 17 change-in-circumstances applications to Income Support, never notifying the department that Mr Bradley had returned to the property.

She also failed to do so when filling in 15 notices from the department asking her to inform them of any change in financial or family circumstances, and when she signed 48 jobseeker declarations.

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Pictured: Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae presided over the sentencing.

At no point did she inform the department that she was reconciled and living with her husband.

Mr Bradley also also failed to give a true account of his living circumstances when attending 69 interviews between June 2010 and July 2016 with regard to his long-term incapacity benefit.

In 2012, Mrs Bradley also told the authorities that she and her husband had been “blacklisted” by HSBC because of poor credit. 

In her letter she only referred to one bank account and failed to mention the other joint account she held with Mr Bradley, into which his wages and incapacity benefit was being paid.

Crown Advocate Chris Baglin told the Royal Court on Friday that the Social Security Department received information in 2019 that Mr Bradley was living with his wife and sent officers to investigate.

“Mr Bradley answered the door dressed only in trousers - he was naked from the waist up,” he said.  

“Officers spoke to both Mr and Mrs Bradley separately. They told the officers that Mr Bradley was just visiting the property. When officers asked about Mr Bradley’s address history, both only provided vague information. 

“Mrs Bradley also told officers that they were not in a relationship and they had no plans to live together.”

In June 2019, which the Court said was “to throw the authorities off the scent”, Mrs Bradley contacted the department and asked for her income support claim to be closed. 

Advocate Baglin said: “She told the officer that Mr Bradley had been staying over at the address for a few nights a week since 23 April 2019 and the claim was suspended pending further investigation. 

“Later that month, the department received a letter from Mrs Bradley which repeated this assertion and acknowledged that money would need to be repaid to the department. 

“Again, Mrs Bradley knew the content of that letter was false.”

In January 2020, she made a full and frank admission that Mr Bradley had been living with her throughout her claim to Income Support and had only left the property for a few weeks in April 2010. She expressed remorse and said that she wanted to pay the benefit back.

The couple has started to do this, having paid back nearly £8,000 of the £144,000 owed. 

Defending Mrs Bradley, Advocate Luke Sette said that his client wanted to offer her deep apologies “to the taxpayers of Jersey, the wider community, the States and the Court”.

He said the “significant and upsetting” decision to tell her husband to move out after 22 years of marriage had been the defining moment. 

With him coming back a few weeks later, the couple had decided to not tell the authorities and, as weeks became months, they maintained the deceit through fear of reprisal. 

The lawyer said that Mrs Bradley had struggled with the burden of dealing with family finances, which Mr Bradley left entirely to her. 

“On her own and with little or no support, she felt isolated,” he added. “She was left to deal with all that life threw at her, including finances.”

Advocate Sarah Dale, representing Mr Bradley, said her client fully accepted that he was as equally culpable as his wife. 

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Pictured: Advocate Sarah Dale represented Mr Bradley.

She said: “He was initially unaware of this fraud claim when he returned to the property. He did discover it a short time later when it all came out during an argument about his actions in marriage.

“He initially remonstrated with his wife but ultimately decided to continue with the fraud. At the time, he felt guilty over own actions and responsible that they had led to change in circumstances.

“He deeply regrets not taking steps to stop what was going on.”

Advocate Dale said the Mr Bradley had “buried his head in the sand” and had a “chronic inability to communicate feelings and thoughts”.

But she added, he was an extremely hard worker and was committed to repay the debt and prove his worth to his family upon release.

Both lawyers called for a prison sentence of two and a half years for their clients - six months less than the Crown's recommendation.

Passing sentence, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae, who was sitting with Jurats Jerry Ramsden and Robert Christensen said: “This was not a victimless crime - the taxpayers of Jersey were forced to subsidise your dishonesty.

”This was a serious offence of benefit fraud committed over nine years, during which time you furnished false information to the authorities.

“You were cheating every member of the community and your actions were an affront to genuine benefit claimants who need the support that you did not.”

The court accepted that the couple had not led an extravagant life and had both struggled with health issues.

“We recognise that you are both hard-working people and you faced financial challenges,” said Mr MacRae. “However, that is true of many people, who do not resort to benefit fraud.”

Afterwards, in a statement, Steve Jackson, Group Director of Customer and Local Services, said: “Income Support exists to provide financial support to islanders who really need it, when they need it.

"Our officers work with claimants to make sure they have every opportunity to disclose changes in their circumstances that can affect benefit entitlement. Anyone who is unsure on a change in their circumstances whilst receiving income support, should contact the department.

“Fraudulent claims can arise for several reasons, including when customers fail to declare their assets, such as property, or their relationship status.

"Potential fraudulent activity is investigated by officers at Customer and Local Services, who seek evidence from other jurisdictions where necessary.  

"Today’s sentencing illustrates that any illegal activity regarding benefit entitlement is taken extremely seriously and can carry custodial sentences.

“We’re calling on the public to let us know if they suspect anyone of making fraudulent claims to obtain income support or any other benefit.

"Their identity will always be protected, whether the allegation is found to be true or not. Members of the public who believe an individual may be claiming fraudulently can share information anonymously via the 'Report a Benefit Thief' page, or via the Fraud Hotline on Freephone 0800 735 1111." 

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Comments

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Posted by Danny Moisan on
and it only took 20 years for social security to find out!
Posted by Sheila Young on
Three years is not long enough given the amount of money involved and it is unlikely that they will serve the full three years anyway. This very lenient sentence is hardly a deterrent and sends out totally the wrong message to others committing this type of fraud.
Posted by nigel pearce on
I read that they are described as ‘customers’ rather than ‘claimants’. Why do we have to put up with this deception and disguising of the truthful situation?
Posted by IanSmith97 on
15 notices, 48 jobseeker declarations and 69 interviews. Nice to see the investigatory techniques and procedures are efficient at Soc Sec. Unbelievable.
Posted by The old git Git on
Well said Danny "only 20 years to find out". And £449.00 a week well above the minimum wage too?
Posted by IanSmith97 on
15 notices, 48 jobseeker declarations and 69 interviews. Nice to see the investigatory techniques and procedures are efficient at Soc Sec. Unbelievable.
Posted by Donal Dolo on
If we were paid more no one would have to do it most people are on income support in jersey we cant pay rent
Posted by Private Individual on
Not long enough.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
I believe that The People ~ all of us ~ should be able to demand that terms of imprisonment can be reviewed upwards, when the given term is deemed to be too light.
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