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Darlington benefit cheat back in court for possessing knife
A BENEFIT cheat jailed last year for making £75,000-worth of bogus benefit claims was back in court today (Thursday, September 5) after being caught with a large kitchen knife in a town centre pub.
Door supervisors working outside a pub on Bondgate, Darlington, spotted Andrea Blakeburn carrying the knife in a paper bag last night (Wednesday, September 4).
The 47-year-old, of Pateley Moor Crescent, Darlington, pleaded guilty to possessing a bladed article in a public place when she appeared at Peterlee Magistrates' Court.
The court heard she had been released from prison on Monday, after being jailed on June 15 for admitting the same offence and further charges of shoplifting, harassment and sending abusive voice mails.
On that occasion, magistrates in Darlington activated a 25-week suspended jail term, imposed a week earlier for criminal damage charges.
Today, James Fenny, mitigating, said Blakeburn had been struggling to cope since being convicted of benefit fraud last November and had turned to alcohol upon her release.
Blakeburn was jailed for more than two years for the crime, which saw her make £75,000-worth of bogus claims over seven years.
However, in March, the Court of Appeal in London ruled the sentence was excessive and halved it.
Mr Fenny said: “She was released almost immediately with no support around her and latched on to alcohol as a strategy of coping.
“She started to visit bars in the town and carried a knife for her own protection as she felt fearful walking home at night.
“This lady needs intensive supervision and help."
The case was adjourned until September 18 for probation reports.
Blakeburn, who was remanded in custody, will appear at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court by video link.
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