�50k benefit fraud woman from Welwyn Garden City avoids jail

A WANNABE nurse who swindled almost �50,000 in benefits smirked as she was told she would not be sent to prison.

Mother-of-two Christine Salter failed to tell the authorities her ex-husband Andrew Woodcock lived occasionally at the family home in The Sidings, Hatfield.

Prosecutor Nasra Butt told St Albans Crown Court the pair divorced in 1997, but between April 2003 and November 2006 they rekindled their relationship, with Mr Woodcock living in a camper van on the drive.

Miss Butt said: “She knew if she lived with her partner it would affect her entitlement.”

Under interview Salter claimed she was Mr Woodcock’s carer more than a girlfriend as he had mental health issues and he would come to the house to see their children, aged 12 and 16, and to collect medication.

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The court heard Salter, 39, had claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, to the value of �48,063.02.

Tim Bass, defending, said Salter, who was due to start a degree course at the University of Hertfordshire in September, had been suspended from her role as a carer at the QE2 Hospital, due to the court case.

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Mr Bass said: “She is extremely remorseful.

“It is not that they were living together as husband and wife for three years, this was not an act of dishonesty of her part, this wasn’t planned.”

But Judge Andrew Bright told Bass: “I’d call it dishonest, it’s fairly reprehensible.”

Standing with her arms crossed and with her bag packed ready for jail, Salter was told she was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail, suspended for two years.

Judge Bright said: “The truth is your husband was living at your address from time to time and you didn’t disclose that.

“The honest thing to do is notify the change, this is dishonest and it’s a substantial sum.

“I hope you’re able to complete your work preparing for your degree, it would be a tragedy if that were not so.”

Salter, of Maran Avenue, Welwyn, was ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work and will be back before the court for a confiscation hearing in May, when attempts will be made to recover the loss to the public purse.

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