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Newspaper photographer jailed for fraud

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 24, 2012

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A photographer has been jailed for fiddling more than £80,000 in benefits by pretending he was too ill to work.

Steven Monk claimed incapacity benefit for nine years, during which he was hard at work doing wedding snaps and taking pictures for a string of local papers in Somerset.

Monk, 50, suffered a genuine injury in 1994 and started claiming benefits legitimately but carried on after recovering and returning to work.

He repeatedly signed forms saying he was still unfit for employment and that his partner was also not working, even though she had a succession of jobs, including one with Somerset County Council.

Monk, of Windmill Hill, Ashill, near Ilminster, admitted three offences of deception and was jailed for eight months by Recorder Mr Nigel Lickley, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

Sean Brunton, prosecuting, said the case came to light as a result of an investigation which showed he was claiming incapacity benefit while earning £17,500 a year working for a local newspaper group in Somerset.

"He also claimed his partner was at home looking after their children when she had jobs with Bookers, Somerset County Council and Balfour Beattie," he said.

Mr Brunton said Monk claimed a total of £84,347.81, mostly in incapacity benefit, but also for council tax and housing benefit.

Patrick Mason, defending, said Monk was now being treated for depression as a result of the extreme remorse he feels for his behaviour.

He said: "He is riddled with guilt and shame and with the embarrassment he has brought to his family. He was only trying to make ends meet and not indulging in a luxurious lifestyle. It is not as if he had created any fictitious children or anything like that.

"He is a self-employed photographer of considerable talent who tells me he wants to go and work in Spain as a wedding photographer, where there is apparently great demand."

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