Luton councillor sentenced for benefit fraud

Still of Hannah Adrees

A councillor who cheated her own local authority out of thousands of pounds has been given an 8-month suspended jail sentence.Hannah Adrees, a Labour councillor in Luton, took around £7,500 that was intended for the personal care of her brain-damaged uncle.The paralegal paid £3,443.80 to fund her studies for a masters degree at the University of Law and took another £2373 as wage. She also spent money on women’s clothes, with Amazon and on a parking ticket, Luton crown court heard.Adrees, 26, of Conway Road, Luton sobbed in the dock as she appeared for sentence, having pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before the magistrates’ court.The prosecution was a brought by her own council, Luton Borough.Prosecutor Andrew Johnson said: “She misused her position as the person authorised to receive the direct personal care payment for her relative.“She is an elected member of the authority that prosecutes her and was defrauded.”Mr Johnson said the uncle had money paid direct into a bank account managed by the councillor. “The system was introduced to give care receivers greater autonomy.“But the fact money is provided to does not mean they have unfettered ability to use the money in any way they see fit.”Her uncle had suffered brain damage after a heart attack in 2011. Adrees took over the management of his account in December 2017. She became a councillor for the Dallow Ward in Luton in May 2019.Mr Johnson said between December 2017 and November 2019 when the payments ended £28,000 was paid out. The defendant was required to provide receipts and bank statements to demonstrate how the money was being used.The prosecutor said: “When the documents were provided it was blatantly obvious some of the funds were not being used in accordance with care plan.“The most significant sum is £3443.80 paid to University of Law.  It is accepted it was a misuse of funds to fund her studies at that institution as part of her desire to qualify as solicitor. “£2373 was also paid to herself as a wage, something that is not permitted, he said.Defending, Emma Kutner said: “She has shown high levels of remorse. She is of entirely good character. “Ms Kutner went on: “She is a bright 26-year-old who obtained a 1st class degree from Bedfordshire University and a masters from the University of Law.“She has been elected to the council, volunteered in the local community and helped out at Luton central Mosque.“She had a very bright future ahead of her, but through her own actions it is ruined.Her chances of being a solicitor or continuing in politics are slim,if not impossible.”Recorder Howard Cohen told her: “It was a high-culpability fraud because it persisted over a long period of time and involved a gross abuse of a position of responsibilty.He passed an 8 month sentence  suspended for 18 months with a condition she completes 200 hours’ unpaid work.Because she received a suspended sentence longer than 3 months Adrees will be disqualified as a councillor.