a Lancashire mother was found guilty of defrauding the state of £45,000. She claimed over £45,000 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support by not including her husband’s details on the claim forms.
She pleaded guilty and was jailed for 16 months.
A week ago, two men from Leeds were also found guilty of defrauding the state of £45,000. They made up false invoices and documents in order to make false VAT claims worth £45,000.
They pleaded guilty, but avoided jail. Instead they were given community sentences, and made to pay court costs.
What makes these cases interesting is that they were for exactly the same amount: £45,000 dishonestly defrauded from the state - and all defendants pleaded guilty to the charges. So why is it that benefit fraud is considered so much worse?
Why, when benefit fraud costs us £1.1 billion per year and tax evasion an estimated £70 billion, is so much more effort and opprobrium directed at benefit fraud?
Of course both crimes were wrong. But is someone who commits benefit fraud a danger to society - who needs to be locked away for over a year of their life? I don't think so.
It's the inevitable result of a society where successive governments and the tabloid media (step forward the Sun and Daily Mail) have whipped up hatred against those out of work. That prejudice is reflected in the sentences.
The same economic crime means very different time.