A film student’s creative writing was not creative enough for him to evade justice when he was discovered to have fraudulently claimed more than £9,000 in housing benefits.
Croydon Crown Court was told that Nicholas Harrison, 39, now living in Leyton, east London, had written a number of letters in which he blamed others for his predicament after a data-matching exercise, conducted by the National Fraud Initiative in association with Croydon Council, revealed his crimes.
He pleaded guilty to failing declare that he was a full-time student, in receipt of a student loan and a student grant while living in Albert Road, South Norwood, between September 2009 and July 2013, and being in receipt of housing benefit.
While reading for a degree in creative writing and film studies at Kingston University, he claimed benefit amounting to £9,229.52.
After failing to attend an interview, and refusing to cooperate with the council’s investigation, Harrison was prosecuted, but then failed to attend an initial hearing at Croydon Magistrates’ Court, writing a letter instead. The court granted a warrant for his arrest without bail.
When arrested at his Leyton flat, last October, Harrison refused to confirm his name and details, but was identified by a three-inch scar above his left eye brow.
His Honour Judge Tanzer, passing sentence, said: “You are an unpleasant man. Not only did you know exactly what you were doing, but you have tried to wheedle your way out of it.
“You were eventually arrested, not even giving yourself up. Not content with that, you continued to write letters saying how it was other people’s fault.
“You are responsible and have to start thinking about others. I will not put you in custody. I give you credit for your plea, but this was not at the earliest opportunity.”
Harrison was sentenced to undertake 180 hours’ unpaid community work; a tagged curfew between 10pm and 6am; and ordered to pay compensation of £9,149.52 and costs of £5,196.25.
He was warned that if he did not comply with the order, he faced going to prison.
“Croydon’s anti-fraud team has a good record for prosecuting those who seek to gain an illegal advantage by falsely claiming benefits payments.
“That’s a record that we’re proud of and should stand as a warning to anybody who thinks they can make fraudulent claims and get away with it.
“We will investigate and we will prosecute anybody we feel is breaking the law and dipping into the public coffers.”
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council