A GREEDY mum fiddled £26,000 in benefits by continuing to claim for four of her five children even after they had been taken into care.
Shameless Caroline Laybourn has been locked up by magistrates after a court heard how she fiddled the system from June 2011 until she was finally caught out in May last year.
The 37-year-old started claiming Income Support and Child Tax Credit in 2006, but four of her five children were taken into care five years later as Laybourn’s life descended into chaos.
After having the children taken off her, Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard how Laybourn, of Murray Street, Hartlepool, started suffering from depression and anxiety, but she continued to claim the benefits, milking the system for £26,000.
Her fifth and youngest child was also later taken into care.
But Laybourn’s lies caught up with her and she was hauled in front of justices at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court earlier this year where she pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for herself and a further five charges of fraud by false representation.
She returned to the court this week where chairman of the bench Nigel Guerin sent her to jail, despite the protests of Laybourn’s solicitor Laura Miller, who asked for the sentence to be suspended so the fraudster can continue in her battle to fight drugs and to care for her ill partner.
Miss Miller, mitigating, said: “In respect of the offence I respectfully submit that the claims were not fraudulent from the onset.
“They became fraudulent when she failed to notify changes after her children were taken into care.
“At the time the children were taken into care her lifestyle was quite chaotic. She started suffering from depression and anxiety and she was also put on some medication.
“She came off that medication but went back on it after her fifth child was taken into care.
“She thought her children would be brought back to her so she didn’t tell the council, but she accepts she should have done so.”
The court heard how Laybourn now has access to her children as little as once a month.
But Miss Miller claimed Laybourn has now changed her lifestyle, saying she been drug-free for six weeks and is being supported by workers at DISC drug intervention programme.
Miss Miller said: “I ask for the sentence to be suspended in order for my client to continue with this support.
“A custodial sentence would also have an impact on her life as she is a carer for her partner who suffers from arthritis and has a slipped disc.”
But ignoring the plea and jailing her for 16 weeks, Mr Guerin said: “We are going to sent you to custody. The reason is because of the prolonged period of time and the amount.
“It is a lot of money and you knew each time you received a payment that it shouldn’t be going to you.”