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Woman, 61, deemed unfit for work could lose her home after being overpaid £18,000 in benefits

PUBLISHED: 08:30 01 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:32 01 December 2017

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Crown Court. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A 61 year old woman deemed unfit to work could lose her home after being overpaid more than £18,000 in benefits.

Maureen Hooghwinkel had been claiming income support since 2002 for a raft of health problems and currently takes more than a dozen medications every day.

But for around four and a half years, she had been receiving payments from her ex husband which she failed to declare. On October 4 this year, she admitted failing to notify the authorities of a change of circumstances.

While she has since been making attempts to repay the money, at Norwich Crown Court today Judge Stephen Holt, acting as district judge, ordered confiscation of the remaining £17,368.15.

Andrew Oliver, prosecuting, told the court Hooghwinkel had been of previous good character.

“The overall position is there was a claim for benefits for which she was not entitled for nearly 235 weeks, with a total overall payment of £18,078.55,” he said. “During that period she had been receiving payments from her ex husband that had not been declared.

“The defendant was interviewed and accepted she had received various letters but she did not generally read them. She said she had initially worked but health problems had taken their toll.

“She was asked about money she received from her ex husband and said she believed it was some sort of pension which had stopped six or seven months prior to her interview with the DWP. She said she spent the money on her children and believed she had received it for about 10 years.”

Mitigating on her behalf, Simon Gladwell told the court she wanted to do unpaid work but he feared her health problems might be “setting her up to fail”.

“She is very sorry for what she has done,” he said. “She is in fear that as a result of the confiscation order she will lose her bungalow in order to pay the £18,000. It is useful to her because of her physical problems.”

Judge Holt said there would be “no question of custody” for Hooghwinkel.

“You have a number of health issues and your strongest piece of mitigation is your remorse and early guilty plea, saving the court’s money at a trial which may well have been in excess of the sums being considered here,” he told her.

Hooghwinkel, of Brooke Avenue in Caister, was given a 12 month community order with 75 hours of unpaid work. A confiscation order was made for £17,368.15, to be paid within three months.

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