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JAILED BRISTOL CITY HOUSING OFFICER FAILS IN APPEAL BID

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A Bristol City Council housing officer who 'tried to better ...
A Bristol City Council housing officer who 'tried to better

the life of his wife and children' by obtaining£18,000 in three years from creating fictitious claimants for housing benefit has lost his second bid to appeal against his 18-month prison sentence.

Sean Michael Smith, 29, was jailed on May 22 at Bristol crown court after admitting two offences of obtaining property by deception and one of false accounting and asking for eight similar offences to be taken into consideration.

Mr Justice Hughes, sitting with Lord Justice Rose and Mr

Justice Scott Baker, announced in the criminal appeal court in London

yesterday: 'His renewed application for leave to appeal against sentence is refused.

'Despite the very sad family tragedy in the background there

is no basis for saying it is arguable that the sentence was manifestly

excessive'.

He said Smith, who had no previous convictions, committed the

frauds in the course of his work as a Bristol City Council housing

officer.

Part of his job was to administer housing benefit and from

June 1994 until August 1997 he defrauded the council by creating

fictitious claimants for such benefit and diverting the money into

building society accounts he controlled.

He obtained just over£18,000.

When discovered he co-operated with police and explained what

he had done.

Mr Justice Hughes said there was 'a very sad family tragedy'

in the background.

The first son of Smith and his wife died from an undiagnosed

and very rare chromosomal disease when nearly four in July 1991.

When the cause of death was diagnosed they were told there was

a one-in-four possibility that any later child might be similarly

affected.

But a second son born in July 1994 and a daughter born the

following year were confirmed free of the disease.

The frauds began soon after the birth and clear diagnosis of

the second son.

Smith told police that when the boy was born healthy he

decided to give him everything he could.

He told a psychiatrist that he persuaded himself that it had

not been fair that they had had such a hard time and that it would

have been easier if their finances had not been so tight.

Between arrest and sentence he became significantly depressed.

His counsel, Stephen Mooney, told the appeal court: 'Smith

tried to better the life of his wife and children.

'Police found more toys at his house than in any they had

visited - that was one way the money was spent.

'It was also spent on a kitchen, and on a car so his wife and

children could be taken out to the country for lunch on Sunday'.

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