A judge made legal history by returning her own verdict on four benefit swindlers by finding them guilty of a complex housing fraud after dismissing the jury. The law is not quite an ass then?
The trial of the family who had built up a property empire worth £1.5million through false benefit claims was halted in March after the jury had retired to consider a verdict.
Claims were made of an illegal approach to jurors and, fearing they had been ‘nobbled’, the judge, Miss Recorder Caroline English, ruled that she could deliver the verdicts rather than ordering an expensive and lengthy retrial.
It was alleged that Sarah Lodge, an associate of Cosima Guthrie, had been in “regular contact” with a female juror about the case. It is claimed the juror discussed jury voting and deliberations with Lodge, who then fed the information back to Cosima.
Defence lawyers appealed against the decision to dismiss the jury but the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with two other senior judges, ruled that the trial judge had acted correctly.
Riccardo Guthrie, 33, his sisters Bianca, 37, and Cosima, 25, and accomplice Courtney Campbell, 48, jointly swindled taxpayers out of more than £110,000 to fund a property portfolio of three houses and two flats across North London.
But after such a strong decision to dismiss a possibly nobbled jury she appears to have made a soft decision on sentencing.
Riccardo Guthrie, 33, a property developer, his two “willing and able” sisters Bianca, 35, and Cosima, 25, and Bianca’s ex-partner Courtney Campbell, 48, used a “raft of false identities” to fraudulently claim housing and council tax benefits between 2003 and 2007. Riccardo was jailed for 3 years, although the Guardian reported it as 2 years, Bianca Guthrie was jailed for two years while Cosima received 18 months.
English spared Campbell jail as he was the sole carer for his children and had played a minor role in the scam. He was given a one-year sentence, suspended for 18 months, and told to do 160 hours of unpaid work.
The family, who own seven London houses, were caught out after a five-year investigation by Barnet council, where three of the properties are located.
THIS is the mum who swindled £43,000 in benefits after claiming for her two children who had been taken into care by social services. Should have used the ‘too fat for the court plea’.
Victoria Butler, 41, should have informed the Department for Work and Pensions that she had lost her kids after being deemed an unfit mother.
Instead, the mum-of-two swindled the money by wrongly claiming family benefits, understood to include child allowance and income support, as well as carers allowance.
Butler, from Stourbridge, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances between August 2007 and May 2010 when she appeared at Dudley Magistrates Court last week.
She could now face a prison sentence when she appears at Wolverhampton Crown Court for sentencing on August 4.
Too fat for court update
I’ve had a ‘butchers hook’ about and apparently Beverley Douglas’s hearing is over and it has gone to Plea and Case Management, whatever that means.