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Woman sentenced for Right to Buy fraud

A housing tenant has received a 20 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, for fraudulently attempting to purchase a three bedroom house with a £80,900 discount on 10 January 2020 at Brighton Crown Court. 

Debbie Mclean, 54, from Hove, was prosecuted by Lewes District Council after claiming to live at the three bedroomed house in Green Park Corner, Wivelsfield Green, Haywards Heath, when she applied to buy the property in June 2018.

Although she was the registered tenant, she had in fact moved out of the property, residing at various other addresses in Sussex since 2014.

Had Mclean still been a tenant at that address, she would have been entitled to the maximum discount on the purchase price under Right to Buy rules, getting a £80,900 discount from the public purse on the property.

The false declaration and abandonment of the property was discovered by the council’s counter fraud team. 

Council officers undertook a thorough investigation of the case, including covert surveillance of Mclean that proved she was not living at Green Park Corner.

This lead to the successful prosecution for fraud by false representation, the first case of Right to Buy fraud brought by Lewes District Council.

The council also took possession proceedings to ensure that the property could be used by a family in genuine housing need.

In addition to the 20 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, Mclean is also required to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 15 rehabilitation activity days and a victim surcharge of £140 was applied.

The Judge in the crown court (HHJ Barnes) in passing sentence referred to the offence as ‘thoroughly dishonest’. She stated that Mclean had deprived others more in need of accommodation for the sake of her own self-interests since the property could have been used to the advantage of a family with children. The Judge stated that Mclean’s actions had been ‘despicable’.

Councillor William Meyer, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Housing fraud deprives people in need from having a home and we have a zero tolerance approach.

“We investigate all reports received and take swift action against anyone found offending. This may include prosecution, as highlighted by this case.”

To report housing fraud anonymously online visit lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/housingfraud

Published on 13 January 2020