Kentish Town mum spared jail over �40,000 benefit fraud for sake of children

A Kentish Town woman who pretended she was a single mum and stole more than �40,000 in benefits has escaped prison after a judge warned a jail sentence would be “catastrophic” for her children.

Lisa Harvey, [age to come], told the authorities she was a single parent despite living with her long term boyfriend and father of her two children Alan Hipple, in Kentish Town Road, from 2005 to 2009.

The mother received a six month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard how Harvey had a “fraught” relationship with her boyfriend Mr Hipple, who she had first started seeing when she was 17.

They had their first child together in 2001, but their relationship broke down soon afterwards.

It was only when Harvey’s mother became ill from a stroke in 2003 that the couple began seeing each other again.

Defence barrister Isobel McCarroll said: “It was never a particularly stable relationship, and was somewhat fraught.

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“He was never a reliable parent. It is right that he was working over the years, his jobs included odd job man.

“Slowly he started to regain more contact with their daughter and started to come over and help look after her. Otherwise he was still an unreliable person.

“He would stay at Ms Harvey’s address a few nights a week, get paid, disappear for a couple of days and come back when all his money ran out.

“Ms Harvey has accepted that she was under an obligation to inform the benefits department. But the reality of the situation given her circumstances, she had her head in the sand.”

During sentencing, Judge Peter Clarke QC said Harvey had “come within a whisper of going to prison”.

But he said he recognised she was running a family while Mr Hipple decided “to use the household when he felt like it”.

He added: “One thing that drives people up the wall is finding out that people are scrounging the state.

“You finally had the sense to plead guilty, the fact that there has been some repayment and that you are not receiving anything like the benefits you had before.

“I find it very difficult to send mothers to prison. The consequences to your children would be catastrophic.”

Harvey pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of her change of circumstances.

She was also ordered to undertake 100 hours of community services and pay �200 towards prosecution costs at the sentencing on December 2.