Woman charged with council house fraud is sentenced at Crown Court

Woman charged with council house fraud is sentenced at Crown Court

A woman who fraudulently tried to buy a council home she claimed she lived in when she was living elsewhere with her husband, has been sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court.

Diane Snelgrove, 67, a tenant of a Wiltshire Council property in Devereux Road, Amesbury received a four months prison sentence, suspended for 12 months on 11 April at Salisbury Crown Court for lying on a Right to Buy form when she had applied to buy her council house.

Mrs Snelgrove made an application on the 12 February 2015 under the Right to Buy scheme with her daughter and son-in-law, Michelle and Gary Stafford. They all completed the form and signed a statement which indicated that it was the only or main home of Diane Snelgrove.

An investigation by Wiltshire Council’s Corporate Investigation Team found Mrs Snelgrove had not been using the council property as her only or main home as she was living with her husband of 10 years in a six bedroom house in Coombe Bissett. When sentencing Judge Barnet said that it had been a ‘blatant fraud’.

All three parties were charged with making a gain for themselves or another, dishonestly making a false representation in a Right to Buy Application contrary to section 2 Fraud Act 2006.

As Diane Snelgrove had already pleaded guilty to the offence in February 2016 she was given credit for this and was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay £1,000 towards costs.

The tenancy has been surrendered by Mrs Snelgrove and the council property has been reallocated. The Staffords had earlier pleaded not guilty to the offence and were acquitted following a trial at Salisbury Crown Court in March 2016.

Dick Tonge, cabinet member responsible for finance said: “Tenancy fraud can cost thousands of pounds to the taxpayer and deprives people in genuine need of a home.

“For every property illegally occupied the estimated cost to the public purse is £18,000.  I want to thank the public for their help in tracking down fraudsters and I’d encourage them to get in touch if they suspect fraud so we can investigate and ensure council and social housing properties are given to the people who genuinely need them.”

Council and social housing properties are let to vulnerable persons who would not otherwise be able to afford to rent in the public sector rental market.

This scheme is intended to support the poor in society and is funded by tax income and other public funds. The Right to Buy (RTB) is an opportunity for council tenants to purchase the property they have previously rented at a discounted rate to give them extra support and to prevent any disadvantage in what is normally an open market. Tenants earn the RTB by complying with their tenancy agreement over a period of time. Since October 2015 Wiltshire Council has regained 11 properties that are now available to people in genuine need of social housing. The estimated saving to the public purse is £198,000.

Residents wishing to report somebody who may be illegally subletting or is not living in their home can call Wiltshire Council’s confidential hotline on 01249 706256. Fraud can also be reported on the council’s website via the “Report a Fraud” feature which is also available on the My Wiltshire app, which is available for Android, Windows and Blackberry phones.  People do not have to give their name and can be assured of complete confidentiality at all times.

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