Essex

Judges tell benefits cheat Kelly McLean 'enjoy the summer'

A benefits cheat who falsely claimed £10,000 has had her electronic tag removed early so she can enjoy summer evenings outdoors with her children.

Kelly McLean, 41, of Great Dunmow, Essex, was given a community order and put on a 12-hour daily curfew in April.

Her lawyers argued that the curfew, from 19:00 to 07:00 was "overly restrictive".

Judges at London's Criminal Appeal Court ruled her sentence was excessive and said she could "enjoy the summer".

Ms McLean, a mother of two, had been sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court after admitting two counts of failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that her circumstances had changed.

'Play with children'

The Criminal Appeal Court was told she initially made a legitimate claim for income support in 2007 and was paid the benefit to supplement her modest wage.

However, after her mother died she inherited her estate, but failed to tell the DWP and over four years claimed £10,283 she was not entitled to.

Her lawyers argued that while her dishonesty called for some form of punishment, the 12-hour curfew meant she was missing out on lighter summer evenings.

Her solicitor advocate told the court she wanted to go to the local park to play with her children, who were suffering as a result of the curfew.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said she deserved the sentence she was handed, but that the curfew was "too long", especially as she had paid all of the money back.

Sitting with Mr Justice Mackay and Sir David Maddison, he said: "In our view, a community order with a curfew was an appropriate way in which to deal with this case.

"We are nonetheless persuaded that a 12-hour curfew for a period of six months was too long, because it comes close to being the equivalent of the maximum sentence for the offence.

"She must by now realise that offences of this kind require punishing and will lead to the loss or curtailment of her liberty."

Directing that her curfew should end immediately, the judge concluded: "She can go out and enjoy the summer."

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