A RICH company director and his common law wife who illegally pocketed more than £77,000 in benefits have been spared jail so they can care for their daughter.
Suzanne Kelly, of Single Street, Downe, looked visibly relieved at Croydon Crown Court when she was handed a suspended sentence.
The 45-year-old had taken a holdall full of clothes into the dock ready to go to prison as had her partner, taxi company owner Geoffrey Harford-Rees.
However, they were both given six month jail sentences suspended for 12 months.
The pair were given six months to repay the money they received in benefits from Bromley Council, Brighton & Hove Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
And Lee Sergent, mitigating for Harford-Rees, told the court they would be able to pay it back through the properties his client owns.
He said: "Miss Kelly has very little to her name but Mr Harford-Rees does and which ever way it is broken down they will find the money from equity of property and they will do that to pay the public purse back."
Kelly and Harford-Rees claimed £42,529 in housing benefit from Bromley Council from September 2005 to June 2010.
They claimed Kelly was Harford-Rees’s tenant at the property in Single Street and that she had to pay rent to him so she could live there with her daughter.
In reality they were in fact living there as common law man and wife.
The court heard Kelly did a similar thing in Brighton in 2002 and received £6,631 in housing benefits by pretending to be her partner’s tenant.
Kelly also obtained more than £5,000 in council tax discount by saying she was the only adult living in the Downe property.
She also received more than £22,000 in income support after failing to declare she was maintaining a common law household with her 58-year-old partner.
Kelly and Harford-Rees both pleaded guilty to a string of benefit fraud charges.
Sentencing Kelly, Recorder Andrew Campbell-Tiech said: "I understand it grew and grew and grew, but for the facts identified and your timely plea of guilty and the fact that your daughter Millie is in a delicate state, to put it mildly, these facts in common mean the sentence is six months imprisonment suspended for 12 months."
Recorder Campbell-Tiech told Harford-Rees: "For the same reasons and the trouble in which your 12-year-old daughter finds herself, the sentence is exactly the same."
The couple must also do 60 hours of unpaid work each and pay combined costs of £750.
They were both sentenced at the court on June 26.