A COUPLE who made around £60,000 from breeding puppies were sentenced for benefit fraud.

Kelly Nicholls, age 30, and Antony Wilkins, age 34, of Oakley Court, Kempsford, pocketed more than £25,000 worth of benefits that they were not entitled to over a two-year period, Gloucester Crown Court heard on Friday, March 1.

Prosecutor Ehsanul Oarith said that between February 2020 and December 2022 the couple made £61,885 through dog breeding which would have led to a cut in their benefits if the income had been declared.

The couple both pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of a change in their incomes which would have affected their entitlement to Universal Credit.

Nicholls also admitted failing to notify Cotswold District Council of her dog breeding earnings during the same period, thereby receiving more housing benefit than she was entitled to.

Judge Rupert Lowe sentenced her to a £100 fine, a £90 victim surcharge and ordered her to pay £3,500 compensation at the rate of £150 a month. 

A community order was also imposed on Wilkins which states that he must take undertake 120 hours of unpaid work plus ten rehabilitation activity days.

Mr Oarith told the court that Nicholls had made an application for Universal Credit in February, 2020 but did not reveal that she was making money from breeding dogs and selling puppies.

He added that there were several subsequent occasions when she did not declare the puppy income although she had the opportunity to do so.

The prosecutor said the total benefits overpayment was £23,683 from the DWP and £2,083 from the council.

Steven Young, defending them both, said they had entered into an agreement to pay just over £2,000 back to the council at £100 a month each.

Mr Young said: "They are a usually law abiding couple - they are people who want to work but because they have low income jobs they are entitled to benefits.

"They are not backsliders trying to fleece the government of benefits. Quite the opposite I submit."

The judge said: "Benefits are handed out to people who are in difficult circumstances on the understanding that they will be honest and not decide that it is just free government money and keep it for themselves.

"That is stealing, and that is what I have to sentence you both for."