Man jailed six weeks for fraud is freed after three days

PUBLISHED: 11:32 04 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

ONLY a few days into his sentence, a man jailed for six weeks after falsely claiming more than £13,000 in benefits was freed. Christian De Vriess, aged 43, of Richard Stagg Close, St Albans, had pleaded guilty to claiming income support, housing benefit

ONLY a few days into his sentence, a man jailed for six weeks after falsely claiming more than £13,000 in benefits was freed.

Christian De Vriess, aged 43, of Richard Stagg Close, St Albans, had pleaded guilty to claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit at St Albans Magistrates Court on August 18 when he maintained he was not working.

But a hotline tip-off led to an investigation which showed he had been working as a driver cum porter for various firms during that period.

Despite his solicitor claiming he suffered from severe panic disorder which meant prison would be an undesirable option for him, magistrates sent him to prison after arguing that a community sentence would be unsuitable as he was unfit for work and could not use public transport because of his claustrophobia.

De Vriess appealed to St Albans Crown Court against his sentence and was freed by a judge on August 21.

The judge took into account a number of factors which included his early guilty plea, his medical history which includes panic attacks and the fact that he had been making repayments and not living a lavish lifestyle.

Different sentencing guidelines resulted in the judge imposing a community order on De Vriess which means he must observe a 7pm to 7am curfew for six months.

Chris Oxley, St Albans District Council's portfolio holder for resources, said: "Although the sentence has been changed by the Crown Court, the original prison sentence would only have run for six weeks. He now has six months during which he will have to forfeit large amounts of free time in penance for his fraud.

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