A JUDGE has sparked fury after failing to imprison a benefits cheat who faked claims for nearly £40,000 – because of the cost of jailing him.
Karmal Mustafa, a 29-year-old Somali, could have been locked up for three years and then deported after being caught taking state handouts for seven years despite having a job.
But soft-touch Judge Carol Hagen – whose decisions have hit the headlines before – let him walk free, saying: “£39,000 is what it costs to keep one man in prison for a year. Do I wish to burden the state further, much as I think it is deserved?”
News of the sentence – Mustafa was given just 250 hours community service – yesterday provoked a furious response from campaigners.
Nick de Bois, Tory MP and member of the Commons Justice Select committee, said: “This is not justice, it’s a joke. It means this man has pocketed £150 for every hour of community service he has been given.
“It’s absolutely appalling when you think people in minimum-wage jobs earn about £6 an hour. They’re doing the right thing but they could look at what Judge Hagen has ruled and think, ‘Why should I bother?’.
£39,000 is what it costs to keep one man in prison for a year. Do I wish to burden the state further, much as I think it is deserved?
Judge Carol Hagen
“It’s judges like this who are wrecking British people’s confidence in the justice system.”
Paul Nuttall, a Ukip Euro MP, said: “If she had followed the guidelines, this fraudster would have been jailed and sent back to his own country. He abused our hospitality and got little more than a slap on the wrist.”
Bristol Crown Court heard last week Mustafa told benefits staff he was unfit to work while in reality he had a job and used his cash to fund two families – one in Somalia and the other in Easton, Bristol.
He sent monthly payments of £800 to £1,000 to Somalia. Mustafa said the money was for his cancer-suffering father, though it was found later the man died 14 years ago.