Retired Leeds nurse sent to jail for benefit fraud

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A retired nurse who fraudulently claimed more than £37,000 in housing and council tax benefits has been sent to jail.

Joyce Cooke, 66, lied to authorities for almost a decade about an NHS pension which gave her an annual income of around £18,000.

Leeds Crown court heard Cooke even continued to work part-time in nursing after her retirement while claiming the benefits between 2000 and 2009.

Cooke, of Cross Catherine Street, East End Park, was jailed for four months yesterday after pleading guilty to false accounting.

A judge told her that despite her “exemplary” work history, he had to send her to jail.

Judge Alistair McCallum said: “If you chose to be so thoroughly dishonest over such a long period of time you cannot avoid going to prison.”

Cooke also sent angry letters to the Department of Work and Pensions when there was a delay in her receiving her money.

She wrote saying: “I hate being messed about.” Another read: “There is too much confusion in this office. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

Ruth Cranidge, prosecuting, said Cooke failed on four occasions to declare her pension when visited by authorities. Cooke continued to deny she had a pension when the offence came to light but admitted it when confronted with evidence and offered to begin paying it back.

Jane Simpson, mitigating, said the offences began around the time she split up from her first husband. She was left without a home and was worrying about how she would cope financially.

She said Cooke had worked for many years as a nurse, caring for people with learning difficulties and dementia.

Cooke is now repaying the money at around £230 per month and had so far paid back around £3,000.

She urged the judge not to impose an immediate prison sentence as she cared for her second husband, who is receiving treatment for bowel cancer.

But jailing her, the judge added: “It is dreadful to see someone like yourself standing in a crown court like this, having admitted to this catalogue of offending. Going to prison will be a severe shock.”

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