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Former regional journalist loses benefit fraud appeal

A former regional daily journalist has lost an appeal against a curfew imposed on her for benefit fraud.

Mary Tapping, the former equestrian editor at the Western Daily Press, was hit with a three-month night-time curfew in March after she dishonestly claimed £4,757 in council tax benefit and £5,635 in pension credit.

She lodged an appeal at Swindon Crown Court last week claiming that the curfew interfered with her job as editor of the Salisbury Diocese magazine Sarum Link, even though the church had made her redundant from the role.

The Wiltshire Times reported that Recorder Michael Selfe, sitting at the court with two magistrates, took just a couple of minutes to throw out Tapping’s application to lift the curfew order.

He said: “We take the view that this appeal is entirely without merit. That if any criticism can be levelled at the magistrates, it was that they were lenient.

“You seem to think the world owes you a living. You are an intelligent woman, you have been a journalist and were working as a journalist.

“No doubt in the course of your work you have reported or seen reports of benefit fraudsters. Every man and woman in this court has to pay tax and you cheat the system.

“You did it once before and you were treated, it seems, very leniently. If you do it again you will probably go to prison and probably for a substantial period of time.”

Tapping, 64, of Horse Road, Hilperton, was put on a three-month curfew in March but another month was added to this in April after she breached the restriction keeping her at home from 7.30pm to 7am.

Stephen Ritter, for Tapping, said his client suffered from depression and anxiety and her work was therapeutic, saying she had recently been rushed to hospital by ambulance after suffering a suspected panic attack.

He said since the sentence was passed she had agreed to take redundancy from her role as editor with the church and an agreed payment of £3,400 was due to her.

She had already repaid the council tax money she received and would put her redundancy towards the pension credit she wrongly received.

Mr Ritter said: “She has had great difficulty keeping with the claustrophobic effects of being subject to a curfew.”

He said the tag, which has to be on her wrist because she has problems with her legs and hips, was also inhibiting her search for work.

He said that she had massive debts, and was even made bankrupt over a credit card bill, but was trying to pay them off.

Tapping was convicted after failing to notify a change in circumstance to Wiltshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

She made a joint claim for benefits with her husband but failed to notify the authorities when he got a job in 2009 earning more than £30,000 a year.

Between February 2009 and November 2011, she was overpaid a total of £10,393.39 and the court was told she had a previous conviction for a similar matter from 1998.


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  • May 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

    The whole welfare and benefits system in the UK is flawed.

    Surely the best way to administer benefits is to create a private insurance company such as BUPA so that you pay in every week/month and if you make a claim, it has nothing to do with your partner’s earnings or how much money you have in savings.

    Obviously only people who pay their insurance premium would be covered for welfare benefits under the new system.

    Surely it can’t be any worse than the system we have at the moment?

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  • May 1, 2013 at 11:35 am

    The welfare system is in place specifically to protect the kind of people who cannot afford to pay into BUPA style private companies.

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  • May 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Burpa gets fiddled too. Name me a benefits system or any other financial system that doesn’t have its fair share of crooked customers

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  • May 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    In response to Chris – Banks – they have more than their fair share

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