Thief who 'faked' pregnancy jailed
A thief who avoided jail by lying to court about being pregnant has been jailed for five months for perverting the course of justice.
Lisa Philips, 37, originally received a suspended sentence for stealing £14,700 from her aunt after the judge heard she was seven months pregnant.
The mother of one from Eskdale Place, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, had told the custody sergeant when she was arrested in June last year she was 13 weeks pregnant.
She maintained the lie when she fell to be sentenced in October last year and in later meetings with the Probation Service, Teesside Crown Court heard.
When Philips avoided jail last year, she was photographed by the press holding her "bump" as she left court, Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said.
Suspicions were raised among Probation Service staff even after her due date had passed and she showed them pictures of a child she claimed to be her baby.
She eventually claimed she had lost the pregnancy. When she was challenged about what had really happened she finally agreed she had lied to police.
Mr Cleasby said: "She claimed she had panicked, she had not set out to improve her situation. Once the lie had been told she simply could not retract."
Ben Pegman, defending, said: "She is genuinely sorry, embarrassed and ashamed for her actions.
"What started as a lie given in expediency when she was first arrested by the police has spiralled into something extremely serious.
"She recognises she had opportunities throughout the proceedings to correct the lie she gave to police."
Philips, who has a 16-year-old son, took £14,700 from Tracy Sedgewick because she was concerned her aunt's partner was going to take the money out of the country. But she ended up keeping it and buying a large TV and PlayStation.
When police investigated she showed them a false NatWest bank statement she had created.
Judge Peter Armstrong, who originally handed out the suspended sentence for theft, said an immediate jail sentence was required.
He said her fake pregnancy was clearly taken into account when he decided it was appropriate to suspend the sentence for the theft, despite his feeling at the time that a custodial sentence was "richly deserved".
He told her: "You avoided jail because of your bogus mitigation. It would be wholly unjust, not just to Tracy Sedgewick but to the public, if that was to happen again."
Philips, who pleaded guilty to one count of perverting the course of justice at a previous hearing, was told she will serve half the sentence in prison.