Man and woman appear in court over benefit fraud

A man and woman appeared in Norwich Crown Court in connection with housing benefit and income support fraud charges and fake tenancy charges.

Shannon Trett is charged with three offences, two of which relate to housing benefit. She also failed to disclose Charles Dersley was the father of her son.

The other charge says she failed to say she lived as a husband and wife with Dersley to make a gain from Income Support.

Charles Dersley is charged with making tenancy agreements to commit or assist in the commission of fraud.

Dersley and Trett indicated no pleas.


Unhappy marriage not grounds for divorce

A woman who was seeking a divorce after a 40 year marriage has lost her case.

Supreme court judges “reluctantly” told Tini Owens that she must remain married because a joyless marriage is not adequate grounds for a divorce if one spouse refuses to agree.

Five judges unanimously upheld rulings by a family court and the court of appeal that Tini Owens, 68, must remain married to Hugh Owens, 80.

The supreme court judge Lord Wilson said in the majority ruling, “The appeal of Mrs Owens must be dismissed. She must remain married to Mr Owens for the time being.

“Parliament may wish to consider whether to replace a law which denies to Mrs Owens any present entitlement to a divorce in the above circumstances.”

Tini first consulted solicitors about a divorce in 2012. Although she had an affair, the couple continued to live together until February 2015.

In May 2015, Tini petitioned for divorce, claiming her husband had prioritised his work over their home life, that their marriage was a loveless one and that she had grown apart from him.

Hugh denied the allegations.

Lord Wilson noted in the judgment that Tini would be able to divorce in 2020, when the couple will have been separated for five years and she will be eligible for a divorce without consent or evidence of fault.






Research reveals relaxed attitudes to wills

New research has found that 30 million British people do not have a will.

The Populus research, conducted by Which? revealed that 61% of British adults do not have a will.

The survey further found that people in England are more likely (42%) than those in Wales (35%) and Scotland (31%) to have made wills.

Darren Stott, managing director of Which? Legal said,

“It’s clear that people don’t appreciate the risks of not having a valid will in place. Even if you think you have nothing worth inheriting, this is often not the case.

“Whatever stage of life you’re at, a will offers peace of mind and ensures that your money, property and other possessions go to the right place.

“Giving money to charity in your will can be a tax efficient way to pass your money on.”





Court rules against excess divorce payments

The Supreme Court has ruled that a man does not have to increase the maintenance payments to his former wife, 16 years after their divorce.

Last year Graham Mills was ordered by the Court of Appeal to increase monthly maintenance payments to his former wife, Maria, from £1,100 per month to £1,441 for life as she was “unable to support her basic needs.”

However, the Supreme Court has overturned that decision, saying it was Mrs Mill’s decisions that left her without capital and increased the cost of her basic needs.

After their divorce settlement in 2002, Mrs Mills was given a lump sum to buy a house mortgage-free. She managed her finances poorly and “unwisely” traded up to live in more upmarket properties, leaving her with a mortgage and without any remaining capital.

Mrs Mills is subsequently living in rented accommodation and asked for her maintenance payments to be increased.

Landlord fined £8,000 for 16 offences

A landlord has been fined over £8,000 for a total of 16 offences under the Housing Act, according to Hastings Borough Council.

Thomas Wallace pleaded guilty to non-compliance with a statutory improvement notice at his property and was fined £2,667.

Wallace was further required to pay £432 costs and £170 victim surcharge.

Mr Wallace was also sentenced for 15 previous offences for which he pleaded guilty to. He was fined £367 per offence and required to pay costs of £435 per offence.

A spokesman for the council said Mr Wallace was fined £8,171 in total and was required to pay costs of £6,912.

Councillor Andy Batsford said, “Given the large number of properties owned by Mr Wallace, it is disappointing that Mr Wallace was not fined even more.

“Fortunately, most landlords do not behave in this way.

“We want responsible landlords in this town and unlicensed landlords will be advised, warned and then taken to court for operating illegally.

“We want decent housing for all in our town.”

Personal injury partner struck off for fraudulent claims

A partner has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) after he allowed his staff to pursue fraudulent personal injury (PI) claims and presided over a system that treated claims management companies (CMCs) “as if they were the actual client.”

Muzammil Hussain Abid’s fellow partner at Crescent Law, Imran Uddin, was suspended for two years.

Mr Uddin described the consequences of his misconduct as “uniquely damaging.”

The tribunal found there was “clearly a practice of pursuing claims without any regard for clients’ actual instructions” and that Mr Uddin left the running of the PI department to Mr Abid, who was “motivated by the desire to increase revenue.”

The SDT said, “The only reason for putting the status of CMCs above those of clients was to ensure that CMCs continued to refer work to the firm.”

The SDT added Mr Abid “caused and allowed the firm to pursue fraudulent claims and pay out clients’ damages to third parties without their consent”.

Mr Abid was also found to have misled the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in relation to his directorship of a car hire company and “profited from a hire company that profited from the dubious PI claims brought by the firm.”

The tribunal heard Mr Uddin was the senior partner of Crescent Law from 2003 to its closure in 2017.

Mr Abid was a partner from 2007 to 2017 and responsible for personal injury work.

He was found by the tribunal to have pursued fraudulent personal injury claims and allowed damages which should have been paid to the firms’ clients to be paid instead to third parties. He also found to have acted dishonestly in doing this, which he denied.

Mr Abid claimed there were only two instances of the firm issuing claims without instructions, but the SRA said it had identified 54 cases.

The tribunal found Mr Abid’s misconduct was “deliberate, calculated and continued over a period of time.”

Ex-wife wants former husband jailed over £2m divorce debt after he spent £80,000 on his latest wedding

A woman says she wants her ex-husband jailed after he spent more than £80,000 on his latest wedding even though he claimed he cannot afford to pay her.

Sarah Rogan said her ex-husband Grant Rogan should be committed to prison for breaching an agreement made following the breakdown of their 10-year marriage.

Ms Rogan has suggested that Mr Rogan is wilfully refusing to pay the money he owes which amounts to more than £2 million.

Mr Rogan, 63, claimed he cannot afford to pay his ex-wife, despite spending more than £80,000 on his latest wedding.

A judge analysed preliminary issues in the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Holman indicated that decisions would be made after a further hearing later in the year.

He said Mr Rogan had agreed to pay Ms Rogan, who was Mr Rogan’s second wife, £5 million in instalments four years ago.

Mr Rogan had also agreed to hand over £8,000 a month alimony pending the full payment of the £5 million.

Mr Justice Holman said, “On the face of it, it is very contumelious. To fail to pay wife number two but to go out and spend large amounts of money on wife number three. The clear inference is that the husband chose to prioritise making considerable expenditure on these two weddings rather than pay the maintenance.”


Employee admits benefits fraud

A man has admitted to using a false National Insurance number to illegally claim £93,000 in benefits while working.

Michel Biza, 50, began claiming benefits legitimately when he was seriously ill.

However, when he recovered and started work, he gave his employers the fake NI number and continued to claim the benefits under the genuine number.

The fraud took place for nine years before it was uncovered by the Department of Work and Pensions investigators.

Biza pleaded guilty to two charges of defrauding Gloucester City Council of housing and council tax benefit between May 2008 and February 2012.

He also admitted two offences of defrauding the Department of Work and Pensions of Income Support and Employment Support allowance between April 2008 and April 2017.

Judge, Recorder Jeremy Wright, sentenced Biza to two years jail suspended for two years and placed him under home curfew for three months from 9pm-5am nightly.

He also ordered Biza to do £150 hours unpaid work and pay £340 costs.

Recorder Wright told Biza, “You continued acquiring benefits at a time when you knew perfectly well that you were not entitled to them.

“That went on for a long time. Every week over a number of years you could have said to the benefits office ‘I am now working so I am not entitled to these benefits.’ Every week, 52 times a year, you could have put things right and acted honestly but you did not.

“The result of your dishonesty is that you have received £93,000 which you were not entitled to and which the taxpayer has had to pay.

“People who deceive State agencies and the taxpayer out of money they are not entitled to have to understand that an immediate prison sentence is inevitable sooner or later. Is it inevitable in your case? Well, it very nearly is.

“In the circumstances that I have heard from your advocate I am not going to put you in prison straightaway.

“You are of otherwise good character, you have had serious problems involving your health which I accept contributed at least in part to this.”




Rogue tenant jailed for 16 weeks

A head tenant has been jailed for 16 weeks after he changed the locks on a property that was illegally sublet to 35 men.

Ilie Florin Dragusin evicted the men and removed their belongings from a converted three-bedroom semi-detached house.

Brent council officers found the 35 tenants to be living in substandard conditions in an unlicensed HMO in September last year.

Dragusin was one of three head tenants at the property in Kingsbury.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, the council cabinet member with responsibility for housing and welfare reform, said,

“This custodial sentence sends a strong message to anyone thinking that they can get away with illegally evicting their tenants. The punishment is prison. We will help people in the private rented sector who are suffering from the actions of rogue landlords, sub-letters and agents.”

Dragusin had previously ignored four sets of warnings by enforcement officers not to change the locks on the property.


Dog walker found guilty of disability benefit fraud

A dog walker has been found guilty of fraudulently claiming thousands of pounds in disability benefits after being secretly filmed throwing a ball for her pets.

Sandra Tipton, 53, alleged that her physical condition, which includes dizziness and a ‘frozen shoulder’ had not improved since she first claimed the benefit in 2013.

The jury at Exeter Crown Court were shown footage of Tipton walking her dogs and throwing a ball. The video was taken covertly by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Tipton denied being dishonest or that her condition had improved at all.

She maintained that she was not a well woman and suffered from vertigo, had difficulty with spacial awareness and her peripheral vision, felt more able at some parts of the day than others, and was embarrassed about always using her mobility scooter.

The DWP said Tipton had not told them her physical condition had improved after 2014 because she wanted to keep receiving the benefits.

The jury returned a guilty verdict to the single count of failing to notify a change of circumstance.