Relationship Breakdowns Can’t Be Allowed To Lead To Fraud

Love hurts at times but it is when the end of love comes about that people really start to hurt. A breakdown of a marriage or a long-term relationship can often be the catalyst for a change in behaviour for many people. Some people take positive action, throwing out all of their old belongings and dead weighs in life while promising to move forward. Some people take some quiet time for reflection while other people will feel very angry about the end of a relationship. There is no right or wrong way to react to a breakup, but it can be helpful to have some good friends around you to make sure that you stay on the straight and narrow.

It is understandable that some crimes will be more likely to be committed after a person suffers a break-up or a big relationship change but this can never be taken as an excuse for illegal behaviour. It can be used in mitigation at times but the loss of a loved-one is never going to be enough to completely exonerate someone who has been accused of a major crime. It certainly isn’t going to be enough to mitigate someone carrying out a £25,000 benefit fraud.

Not informing Authorities of a change of Circumstance will Lead to Trouble

This was the case for Michael Howlett, a self-employed businessman who claimed a total of £24,366.41 between the 21st of October 2008 and the 6th of October, 2013. Howlett claimed income support, legal aid, carer’s allowance and council tax benefits after his 20 year marriage broke down in 2008. The Crown Court in Hull also heard that Howlett turned to alcohol at this time.

A pair of wedding rings pictured on a broken cardboard heart

In mitigation, Paul Norton said in court, “It came as a great shock to him. He’d been married 20 years and he thought it a happy marriage. The collapse left him responsible for various joint debts. He was heavily in debt. He did have assets, especially equity shares in two houses, but he was unable to realise those assets because his ex-wife would not co-operate with the sale of one of the houses and, therefore, your honour, despite his efforts his primary motive was not greed. It was not for riotous or luxurious living, but simply to try to keep his head above water.”

The court was informed about the company that Howlett is the Managing Director of, Howlett Glasshouse Specialists, a company that makes and fits greenhouses. The prosecution pointed out in court that during a police interview, Howlette intimated that his earnings were “not more than £90 a week” but the prosecution was able to point to various invoices from other companies which indicated that this was not the case. Howlett claimed that he was a carer for a neighbour and that he was involved in this role 35 hours a week. He also stated that he was bequeathed their property when the neighbour passed away. Howlett was also found to have a net share of £20,500 from a property that he owned with his wife, and that he was receiving £75 each week in rent.

The Defence Team made a Number of Points in Mitigation

In mitigation, it was also put forward that the glasshouse firm was currently experiencing a growth in demand and had taken on a new employee. If Howlett was sent to jail, it was argued that this employee would lose their job as the company would be unable to continue operating if Howlett was away from it for any period of time.

Howlett, who hails from the west of Hull admitted 8 counts of making dishonest representations in order to obtain benefits and he also admitted a failure to inform relevant authorities of his change in circumstances. The presiding judge said that Howlett’s early plea was taken into consideration but that he needed to pass a jail sentence on him. The judge said in court; “Individuals who thieve this sort of money from the state usually go straight to prison. A message must go out, if you defraud the state in this way, the likely result is prison and the only issue for the court to decide is how long. This must stop, and those who do this sort of thing fall to be punished.”

Howlett has been paying back £100 a week to repay the money and he could face criminal proceedings for the remainder of the cash. However, if he is able to sell one of his properties, this would allow him to meet his debt, which would see these proceedings dropped.

Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.

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