On 1 February 2017, Claire Kell was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for dishonestly obtaining $90,326 in single parenting payments over a period of seven years.
During this period Kell repeatedly made false statements to Centrelink to conceal from it the fact she was living with, and later married, her de facto partner.
Kell made her first false statement shortly after she conceived her child with her partner. Centrelink had received a tip-off that the pair were in a relationship, but in her response to Centrelink's investigation, Kell claimed they were separated and she was living alone. When the child was born, she claimed Family Tax Benefit at the single rate and again denied being in a relationship with her partner.
This dishonesty continued in 11 review forms periodically lodged with Centrelink over several years, with the result that her relationship and her partner's income were completely concealed.
Kell’s fraud was discovered when she separated from her then ex-partner and he claimed benefits for the children, who were now in his care.
Charge / Sentence
Following a guilty plea, on 1 February 2017 Kell was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment to be released after serving one year on recognisance to be of good behaviour for 12 months, in relation to:
- One count of general dishonesty (obtaining a gain), contrary to section 135.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth)
- One count of general dishonesty (influencing a Commonwealth public official), contrary to section 135.1(7) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
In sentencing, the Judge said: ‘The offending itself was deliberate and sustained over many years, and various forms of deceit were used, some of it highly sophisticated. And the offending was motivated by lifestyle issues, as I have said; namely her cannabis habit. She was not seeking to ameliorate her underlying social deprivation. There was a large amount involved and general deterrence is paramount.’