Salisbury church magazine editor loses curfew appeal

An editor of a church diocese magazine has lost her appeal against a curfew imposed for falsely claiming more than £10,000 in benefits.

Mary Tapping, 64, said the evening curfew magistrates imposed interfered with her work editing the monthly Sarum Link for the Diocese of Salisbury.

She previously admitted two charges of failing to notify a change in circumstance to Wiltshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Her appeal was at Swindon Crown Court.

Magistrates last month sentenced Tapping, of Horse Road in Hilperton, Trowbridge, to a three-month electronically tagged curfew and a 12-month community order.

Between February 2009 and November 2011, she was overpaid £4,757.51 in council tax benefit and received a pension credit overpayment of £5,635.88.

Breached curfew

She made a joint claim for benefits with her partner in February 2009 and received council tax benefit.

But an investigation found her husband had been working since 2009, earning more than £30,000 a year that had not been declared.

The court heard Tapping had now repaid the council in full and was paying £33.52 a week directly from her pension to the DWP.

The appeal hearing was told the curfew - which banned her from being out after 19:00 - prevented her from attending diocesan meetings as part of her part-time role.

The court heard Tapping had twice breached the order and had received an extra four weeks' curfew as punishment.

Stephen Ritter, representing Tapping, said his client had worked as a journalist for many years, including for national newspapers, but was in the process of negotiating redundancy with the Diocese of Salisbury.

"I understand an agreement between them has been put in place because she is not able to do the job as both of them would like to see it done."

Mr Ritter said Tapping - who has a previous conviction for benefit fraud in 1998 - would be paid a redundancy figure of £3,400, which she was planning to give to the DWP as part of the money she owes it.

"The key point is that she is finding it very difficult to obtain other employment, particularly with that electronic tag on her arm," he said.

'Cheated the system'

Recorder Michael Selfe and two magistrates dismissed the appeal.

The judge told Tapping: "We take the view that this appeal is entirely without merit and if any criticism at all can be levied at the magistrates it was they were lenient.

"You seem to think that the world owes you a living. You are an intelligent woman and you have worked as a journalist and I have no doubt you have seen first hand cases of benefit fraud in your newspapers.

"Every one of us in this court has to pay tax and you cheated the system.

"If you do it again you will undoubtedly go to prison - probably for a substantial period."

Tapping was also ordered to pay £200 prosecution costs.

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