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Former Crawley tenant guilty of illegally sub-letting

A former Crawley Borough Council tenant has been found guilty of illegally sub-letting her council home and making an unlawful profit from doing so.

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Kerry Sowe, 42, of Lancing Close, Ifield pleaded guilty to an offence under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and was ordered to pay an Unlawful Profit Order to the council of £4,570 and costs of £1,970 at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (October 16).

Crawley Borough Council received a fraud referral in February alleging that Mrs Sowe, then a council tenant of Ditchling Hill, Southgate, had illegally sub-let and parted with possession of the whole of her council property and was living in Gambia at the time.

The case was passed to the council’s Corporate Fraud Investigations Team, which undertook a thorough investigation.

Evidence was gathered to show that Mrs Sowe had left the country for a large period of time, illegally sub-let the property and made a profit from doing so. She was interviewed by council investigators where an admission was first offered.

Mrs Sowe was served with a notice to quit the property by the council’s Housing Team as she was in breach of her tenancy terms. The property was returned to the council’s stock in April and has now been reallocated to a family with a true housing need.

When being sentenced the magistrates commented that Mrs Sowe had acted deliberately to maximise the profit for herself.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council said:

“We have almost 2,000 households on the waiting list so it’s vital that our housing goes to those most in need.

“This case demonstrates how seriously we take our responsibility to make sure that only those eligible for council housing receive the help they need.”

The council’s Corporate Fraud Investigations Team will investigate all aspects of fraud against the local authority and also run data matching exercises to try and find any fraud that has found its way into the system.

One of the regular checks that the team carries out is to make sure that people who claim a Single Person Council Tax Discount are actually entitled to it. So far this financial year the team has removed 29 discounts at a value of £16,105.

Anyone who thinks they know someone who has made a false application to claim services from the council, is not living at their council property, has been illegally evicted or has illegally sub-let it can contact the Corporate Fraud Investigations Team 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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