A CHESTER woman has been jailed for creating false rent receipts in a desperate attempt to avoid being evicted from her home.
Ann-Marie Bennett, 44, fell into arrears with Arena Housing Group and used her laptop to create the fake receipts which she then handed over in court as proof of rent payments.
Chester Crown Court was told she was trying to buy herself some time but an investigation confirmed the receipts were false.
Bennett concocted a story in an attempt to shift the blame onto an imaginary third party but pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice when she appeared in the dock.
The Recorder of Chester Judge Elgan Edwards sentenced Bennett, of Grackle Croft in Tattenhall, to four months’ jail.
“It is very sad to see a woman of your age in a dock of a crown court facing charges of perverting the course of justice,” he said.
“It strikes at the very heart of the justice system.”
Joanne Maxwell, prosecuting, said Bennett handed over the fake rent receipts in an arrears hearing at Chester Civil Justice Centre last July.
But the district judge presiding over the case asked for the receipts to be verified and warned Bennett she would be in contempt of court if they were found to be fake.
Arena Housing Group confirmed the receipts were false 24 hours later as the reference numbers did not correspond to any payments.
Miss Maxwell said Bennett claimed a third party had supposed to be making payments on her behalf but had not done so.
Bennett told the district judge the third party must have made the false receipts but she was later arrested and police seized her laptop.
Miss Maxwell said Bennett admitting making the fake receipts on her laptop when checked.
“She said she had created them because she needed to buy time,” said Miss Maxwell.
“She confirmed there was no third party and that was something she had made up.”
The court was told Bennett had previous convictions for dishonesty dating back to 2005.
Judge Edwards said the district judge could not have been clearer in warning Bennett and must have suspected what she was doing.
“Very justly and very charitably, he tried to warn you of the consequences of what you were about to do,” said Judge Edwards.
“It is a deliberate and dishonest act in the face of the court.
“Having been warned what would happen to her if she carried on with it, she did it anyway.”
Michael Bagley, defending, said Bennett had been trying to “keep a roof over her family’s head” and did not expect the district judge to ask for the receipts to be checked.
“The offences have been committed simply out of desperation,” he said.
“She could have come clean but unfortunately she did not do so. She placed herself in a corner she was backed into and she panicked.
“She has previous convictions but has not been to prison before.”
Mr Bagley said it was likely Arena Housing Group would now seek possession of Bennett’s home.