Curfew and costs for falsely claiming council tax reduction

A community-based penalty, in the form of a curfew, has been imposed on a High Wycombe man who failed to declare that he was a joint owner of a property when he applied to Wycombe District Council (WDC) for a reduction in his council tax. As a result he received £4,133.02 of council tax reduction that he was not entitled to over a period of nearly four years.

Mr Saqib Karim, 40, of Healey Avenue, pleaded guilty, when he appeared at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 23 May, to a charge of knowingly making a false statement to secure a council tax reduction on a benefit claim form.

The curfew will be in place between 8pm and 8am for 10 weeks and will be monitored by electronic tags. Mr Karim was ordered to repay the £4,133.02 in full, as well as prosecution costs of £2,494 and a victim surcharge of £95. A repayment schedule has been agreed with WDC.

In his defence Mr Karim said he was holding the property, which was registered in the joint names of himself and his father and was subject to a joint mortgage, in trust for his father, and he had not appreciated that he needed to declare this fact on the benefit form.

Cllr David Watson, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “We want to reassure our residents that we take benefit fraud seriously and won’t hesitate to prosecute the dishonest few who choose to abuse the system.”

When completing application forms for benefit, advice and assistance are available from council officers, and if in doubt applicants should seek advice.

Residents who are aware of any suspected fraud (not just benefit fraud) are invited to contact the corporate investigations team anonymously at fraud.investigations@wycombe.gcsx.gov.uk.