A DEPRESSED Falmouth woman described as "a pillar of integrity" saved more than £30,000 from her benefits payments to move house – more than double the amount allowed.
Linda Bascombe, aged 58, of Trevithick Road, was initially charged with a dishonest failure to notify the authorities of her savings and, as a result, being overpaid £25,254.98 in benefits. On Wednesday at Truro Crown Court she admitted failing to notify Cornwall Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, but with no dishonesty, and her plea was accepted by the prosecution.
Will Rose, for the prosecution, said between April 2002 and February 2012, Bascombe had claimed council tax and income benefits on the basis that she did not have capital exceeding the allowed limits, which were £8,000 up to April 2006 and £16,000 after that date.
He said Bascombe suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome and that at the end of 2011 her savings had totalled £33,561.
She was interviewed about her claims in April last year.
"She stated she had telephoned the DWP in June 2009 and was given information that she was entitled to save as much as she liked towards the cost of moving house," said Mr Rose.
"Her capital exceeded the permitted amount well before 2009." It was the prosecution's case that the phone call had never happened, he said.
Edward Bailey, for the defence, said Bascombe was of previous good character and had ended her police interview by saying she was sorry if she had done something wrong but was not aware of having done so.
He added that she had not spent the money in question on living an extravagant lifestyle.
Sentencing Bascombe to two months in prison, suspended for 12 months, Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC said: "You suffer from depression, poor memory and concentration and overwhelming fatigue."
He added that Bascombe had been described in character references submitted to the court as a "pillar of integrity".
"I see no reason to depart from that description," he said.