Rugby man fined for failing to declare change of circumstances

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A RUGBY man has been fined £110 plus £125 court costs for failing to declare temporary work and attending university whilst claiming housing benefit.

Francis Mlambo, 35, of Avenue Road, Rugby, pleaded not guilty at his first court hearing in September 2012 and opted to go to trial.

At his trial Mlambo, who has a law degree gained at Coventry University, represented himself arguing that he did not understand what he was signing when applying for benefit and that he did not knowingly defraud Rugby Borough Council.

Rugby Borough Council confirmed that Mlambo was not being prosecuted for knowingly defrauding the authority but was charged with failing to declare changes in his circumstances.

In mitigation, Mlambo said that his family had suffered in Zimbabwe and his sister was terminally ill in the United Kingdom. He also stated if convicted of benefit fraud, being a criminal offence, this would jeopardise his future employment if he wanted to practice law.

The judge heard all the evidence and found in favour of Rugby Borough Council stating that he did fail to declare a change of circumstance. Mlambo received £4445.31 in benefit that he was not entitled to which is being recovered by the authority.

Cllr David Cranham, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for resources said: “This case shows that Rugby Borough Council is relentless in its fight against benefit fraud. It is made very clear to customers from the time they first make a benefit claim that they have a duty to report any subsequent changes in their circumstances which may affect their claim. Mr Mlambo failed to do this.

“We are here to protect the public purse and had to do so through the courts on this occasion. However, we are also committed to helping our customers, so if anyone has any doubts about their claim and their circumstances I would ask them to contact the council’s benefits team on 01788 533433.”