Friday, October 24, 2008

Liberal Democrat - Benefit Fraud

A FORMER district councillor who fiddled his own authority out of £5,200 in benefits while jetting off on luxury foreign holidays, has been warned he could go to jail.

At Exeter Crown Court yesterday, Laurence Haydn-Higgins, 52, was found guilty of making false representations to obtain housing and council tax benefits.

The jury also convicted him of failing to promptly notify the authority that his working and child credit tax allowances had been increased.

Haydn-Higgins was released on bail while a pre-sentence report is prepared.

Recorder Michael Fitton told Haydn-Higgins: "You will be aware, having been convicted of these offences, that you face a prison sentence. I want you to discuss everything with the probation service so that I know the full effects on you of any sentence I impose."

During the trial, the jury heard that Haydn-Higgins failed to tell North Devon district council that his wife Julie was working and did not tell them that his tax credits had increased.

While he was operating the fraud, he and his family went on luxury holidays costing more than £10,000 to Tunisia, Turkey and the Dominican Republic. When he came back, he pleaded poverty and made an application for a hardship payment.

David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said the former councillor also had a building society account into which £5,000 was paid – £2,000 above the limit at which benefits could be applied for.

He said Haydn-Higgins who was councillor for the Barnstaple ward of Forches and Whiddon Valley from 2003 to 2007, must have known that his wife was working, but in the section on the form dealing with that there was a complete absence of information.

The offences came to light when Julie Haydn- Higgins let slip to a council officer who visited the family home that she was working.

Haydn-Higgins of Queen Street, Ilfracombe, had denied both charges.


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