A man from Wolverhampton has lost an appeal against his conviction for unlawfully subletting a council home.
Harry Harriman, aged 24, of Lichfield Road, Wednesfield, had previously been found guilty at the city’s magistrates court of deliberately and dishonestly renting out his Wolverhampton Homes property while he was living elsewhere with his girlfriend.
His mother Louisa Harriman, aged 44, of Griffiths Drive, Wednesfield, a support worker who helps vulnerable people to secure social housing, was found guilty of knowingly assisting her son with the offence.
The mother arranged for a tenancy agreement to be signed and took rental payments into her bank account, Wolverhampton City Council said.
The pair appealed against their convictions claiming there was insufficient evidence and that the offences did not happen.
Both appeals were dismissed by His Honour Judge Butterfield QC and two lay magistrates after a two-day hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
The court heard that Harry Harriman rented out his council home to a vulnerable mother and her two teenage children.
Text messages between the Harrimans and the tenant were shown to the court which clearly demonstrated that each defendant was well versed in the rules and that the pair were knowingly participating in a deliberate dishonest arrangement, the council said.
An anonymous tip off was made to the Wolverhampton Homes online fraud reporting service.
The council said that once the Harrimans realised they were under investigation, they forced the woman and her children out of the property and changed the locks.
The former tenant, who has subsequently found alternative accommodation, gave evidence at the hearing which Judge Butterfield concluded was “honest, credible, compelling and unshaken”.
In dismissing the Harrimans’ appeals the judge is reported to have said the offences had “clearly been committed for commercial gain”.
During the proceedings, the court heard that the uncovering of the fraud also prevented Harriman from purchasing the property at a significant discount under the ‘right to buy’ scheme.
Both defendants were each ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work, with Harry Harriman ordered to pay the council’s costs of £3,000 and Louisa Harriman £2,250.
Cllr Jacqueline Sweetman, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member city assets and housing, said: “Subletting a council property is fraud, plain and simple. It is a serious offence to deprive people in genuine need of a council property which the courts have rightly punished.
“I welcome the court’s decision to dismiss these appeals, our fraud investigators had a solid case against the Harrimans who had been trying to make a quick buck by taking advantage of a vulnerable woman and her children.
“I hope this case will act as a warning to anyone else who might be contemplating subletting out a council property. You run a very real risk of ending up before the courts and being convicted of fraud and duly punished.”