Woman who defrauded council is sentenced

Published: 16 Oct 2019

A Hertford resident who defrauded Hertfordshire County Council of almost £20,000 received a suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay £5,400 when she appeared in court this month.


Nichola Ratcliff, 54, of Purkiss Road, pleaded guilty at St Albans Magistrates court on Wednesday 28 August to four counts of ‘fraud by failing to disclose’ in relation to Residence Order Allowance payments from the council. Sentencing was adjourned until 4 October at St Albans Crown Court.

The court heard how a child was placed into the care of Ratcliff by means of a Residence Order when it was a year old. Residence Order Allowance payments were granted to Ratcliff from November 2002 to support the child financially. However, in October 2014 the child was voluntarily removed from her care.

An investigation carried out by The Shared Anti-Fraud Service for the county council found that in order to receive the allowance, Ratcliff completed annual Residence Order Allowance Reviews whereby she declared that the child was still living with her as a member of her household between 2014 and 2018.

The court heard that as a result of Ratcliff’s dishonesty she received £19,842.28 of Residence Order Allowance that she was not entitled to between October 2014 and November 2017. She has been invoiced for the full debt and has entered into a repayment agreement with the county council.

On Friday 4 October at St Albans Crown Court the judge gave Ratcliff credit for her early guilty pleas and sentenced her to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered her to pay compensation fees of £5,400 at the rate of £150 per month.  The council will seek to recover the balance of the money owed in full.  Ratcliff, who was unrepresented, apologised to the court for her actions.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, Councillor Ralph Sangster, said: “Over a number of years, this lady deliberately defrauded the council of nearly £20,000.  Fraud is not a victimless crime – it robs those people who truly need help and generates enormous costs that are borne by the public.  We will continue to work to ensure that people who defraud the council are brought to justice.”

Anyone with information about fraud committed  against the County Council can report it in confidence by visiting
hertfordshire.gov.uk/reportfraud or by contacting the Shared Anti-Fraud Service hotline on 0300 123 4033 or by email fraud.team@hertfordshire.gov.uk