'Rastamouse' creator escapes jail for benefit fraud thanks to judge's daughter

Tom Beasley
Contributor
'Rastamouse' creator Michael De Souza at the Toy Retailers Association's 'Dream Toys' fair in 2011. (Credit: John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images)

The creator of reggae-loving children’s TV juggernaut Rastamouse has avoided a jail sentence for benefit fraud, and he may have the judge’s eight-year-old daughter to thank.

Michael De Souza created Rastamouse for a children’s book in 2004 and later helped to usher the character on to the big screen for the popular CBeebies TV series, which ran from 2011 until 2015.

The 64-year-old appeared at Southwark Crown Court to admit two charges related to benefit payments he claimed while earning income from his writing work.

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Judge Christopher Hehir sentenced De Souza to 160 hours of community service and declared that his daughter was a big fan of the Rastamouse TV show.

The stop-motion animated programme stars Reggie Yates as the voice of the title character, who solves crimes while fronting reggae band Da Easy Crew.

'Rastamouse' ran for 52 episodes on CBeebies between 2011 and 2015. (Credit: BBC)

“I’ve got young children and I used to be a fan of Rastamouse,” said Mr Hehir.

“I did tell my eight-year-old daughter, who was a big fan when she was younger, that Mr De Souza was appearing before me, and she wasn’t keen on a custodial sentence.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I don’t usually run sentences past my young children.”

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De Souza admitted to dishonestly claiming £3,581.90 in Jobseeker’s Allowance and £5,186.12 in housing benefit in 2017.

According to The Guardian, De Souza said he failed to face up to his fraud because writing was an irregular source of income for him at the time.

Members of the public arriving at Southwark Crown Court. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

He left his native Trinidad in 1960 to move to the UK and spent several decades teaching children to swim, which inspired him to write books for young people.

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Sentencing De Souza, Mr Hehir joked that “not even Da Easy Crew can get him out of this one”.

He added: “It is a great shame that a man of your undoubted talents, which I’ve been able to observe for myself through the medium of the TV show Rastamouse, finds himself before the crown court for a matter of this sort.”