A Kingston University who fraudulently claimed more than £9,000 in housing benefit has walked free from court.
Creative writing and film studies student Nicholas Harrison, 39, spun a yarn to authorities claiming that others were to blame for his predicament after a data-matching exercise revealed his crimes.
Harrison, who was branded an ‘unpleasant man’ by His Honour Judge Tanzer pleaded guilty at Croydon Crown Court to failing to declare that he was a full-time student, in receipt of a student loan and a student grant while living in Albert Road, South Norwood and being in receipt of housing benefit.
In total he claimed benefit amounting to £9,229.52.
After failing to attend an interview and refusing to cooperate with the council’s investigation Harrison was prosecuted but then failed to attend an initial hearing at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, writing a letter instead.
The court granted a warrant for his arrest without bail.
When arrested at his Leyton flat last October Harrison refused to confirm his name and details, but was identified by a three-inch scar above his left eye brow.
His Honour Judge Tanzer, passing sentence, said: “You are an unpleasant man.
“Not only did you know exactly what you were doing, but you have tried to wheedle your way out of it.
“You were eventually arrested, not even giving yourself up.
“Not content with that, you continued to write letters saying how it was other people’s fault.
“You are responsible and have to start thinking about others.
“I will not put you in custody. I give you credit for your plea, but this was not at the earliest opportunity.”
He was sentenced on January 30 to undertake 180 hours’ unpaid community work, a tagged curfew between 10pm and 6am and ordered to pay compensation of £9,149.52 and costs of £5,196.25.
He was warned that if he did not comply with the order, he faced going to prison.
Leader of the council Councillor Tony Newman said he was proud of the council’s reputation of catching benefits cheats.
He said: Croydon’s anti-fraud team has a good record for prosecuting those who seek to gain an illegal advantage by falsely claiming benefits payments.
“That’s a record that we’re proud of and should stand as a warning to anybody who thinks they can make fraudulent claims and get away with it.
We will investigate and we will prosecute anybody we feel is breaking the law and dipping into the public coffers.”
Picture courtesy of John Linwood, with thanks