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Former Bewbush fraudster prosecuted by Crawley Council

A former Crawley resident has been successfully prosecuted by Crawley Borough Council for two criminal offences in relation to council tax and tenancy fraud.

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Helen Reed held a council tenancy at Cumbernauld Walk, Bewbush but moved out of her property to live with her husband in Gosport in April 2018. She was also claiming a Council Tax Reduction Scheme award and housing benefit at the Bewbush address.

Council fraud investigators became aware of the situation in August 2018 and began gathering evidence to prove their case.

Mrs Reed was found to be renting accommodation in Gosport while continuing to receive benefits at her Crawley address, which was rented out to her adult daughter. Mrs Reed failed to inform the council about the change in her circumstances and that she was no longer living at Cumbernauld Walk.

Once enough evidence was obtained, Mrs Reed was interviewed under caution at Portsmouth City Council offices by fraud officers from Crawley Borough Council in March 2019, by which time the situation had been continuing for almost a year, leading to substantial council tax and housing benefit overpayments, which she was made to repay.

Additionally, her tenancy was subsequently ended and the property at Cumbernauld Walk was repossessed by the council.

Mrs Reed was summonsed to court for her actions and pleaded guilty on Thursday (24 October) to offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and the Council Tax Reduction Schemes Regulations 2013. She was convicted and sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a contribution towards costs.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said:

“While benefit and tenancy fraud are very rare, when people do commit it they take money directly from local services and the members of the community who need it most.

“Where fraud is committed, those individuals will be found and they will be prosecuted.”

Anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud or council tax fraud can contact the council’s Corporate Fraud Team free and in confidence 24 hours a day on 0800 634 0180 or email investigations@crawley.gov.uk

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Crawley College to reopen following incident

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Crawley College will be beginning a phased reopening to students from tomorrow, Thursday 29 April.

The phased reopening will take place between tomorrow and Tuesday 4 May with full details by courses provided on the college website www.crawley.ac.uk . Students should check details before returning to campus.

The campus has remained closed for the past two days following police investigations into the incident that took place at the college on Monday (26 April).

Vicki Illingworth, Principal of Crawley College, said:

“We are looking forward to welcoming our students and staff back to the college.

“We’d like to reassure everyone, the college is safe and they will be well supported in their return to the campus.

“Sussex Police have confirmed that this is being treated as an isolated incident which is not terror related and nobody else is being sought in connection with the incident.  The individual concerned is in police custody and has been charged.”

“We are now focussed on ensuring we can bring students and staff safely back on site. We’re proud of the service we provide to our students to give them opportunities in education and training.

“I can reassure everyone that this was a one-off incident and we have strategies in place to keep everyone as safe as possible, as well as giving the students the support they need to come back and join us to complete their studies successfully.”

Vicki also echoed her earlier comments, paying tribute to the staff who supported students who were on site during the events of Monday afternoon.

She added:

“I continue to remain full of admiration of our team. They pulled together on Monday and implemented all of the protocols we have in place to keep students safe.

“They’ve continued to work together to support each other and their students over the past couple of days – and they will continue to do so when students return to campus.

“We are also particularly proud of the two members of staff who acted so bravely and swiftly to apprehend the individual before the police arrived. They acted selflessly to protect their students and the college community. They have asked for privacy during this time.

“It was a very intense time for everyone involved.

“The students who were kept inside the college and who were part of the emergency evacuation were supported throughout by our staff and counselling services have been available to them this week. These services will continue to be in place for them to access.

“We’ve continued to be in touch with our students through our support services to check that they are ok and we will resume face-to-face counselling as soon as we can.”

Work is taking place at the college campus to repair some damage which was sustained during the evacuation and subsequent investigations, with teams working hard to ensure the campus is ready for reopening.

The college would like to thank students, staff, the Police and Emergency Services and the wider community for their ongoing support and understanding.

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