Sentence is sending out the wrong message

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There’s no doubt that the courts are often faced with difficult decisions.

Sentencing is based on the merits of each individual case. But there will be many people who are surprised to read the report we bring you today about Kayleigh Cooper.

Over a period of years, she lied to the benefits office, in the end claiming £37,000 to which she was not entitled.

She was given a suspended jail sentence for the offences and told to pay back the cash at £18 a week. This will take around 39 years.

Part of the reason for the sentence was that her child would have to be put into care were she locked up, a factor that can’t be taken lightly.

But while we wouldn’t advocate sending people to prison in all cases, a question mark hangs over the message that is sent out by sentences like this.

While the offender is not ‘getting away with it’, the punishment certainly seems light.

And what also needs to be considered is who is losing out.

In this case it’s every single taxpayer. After all, that’s where the money comes from to fund the benefits system.

The other factor is those people who legitimately claim benefits, who are unfairly tarnished by cases such as this.

Everyone who pays tax is perfectly entitled to claim state assistance, should they require it.

But it’s cases like this that see those on benefits given labels like ‘scroungers’ and worse.

As Jonathan Isaby says in his comment to us, it also raises questions about checks.

How, exactly, could it go on for so long without being detected?

In short, no-one comes out of this case well, least of all Cooper.

Let’s just hope it makes other would-be cheats think again before they sign on.