Rastamouse creator Michael de Souza sentenced for £8,700 benefit fraud

10 September 2019, 16:01 | Updated: 10 September 2019, 18:26

The creator of the Rastamouse children's TV series has been sentenced for benefit fraud - with the judge referencing the show by telling the court that "not even Da Easy Crew can get him out of this one".

Michael de Souza, 64, is the brains behind the popular books and CBeebies stop motion show about a mouse who fronts a crime-fighting reggae band.

De Souza wrongly claimed £3,581.90 in Jobseeker's Allowance and £5,186.12 in housing benefit between January and December 2017, the Evening Standard reported.

The writer admitted wrongly claiming £8,768.02 in benefits while also receiving money from his work as an award-winning author.

He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Monday after admitting he had not "grasped the nettle" of telling authorities about his other sources of income.

De Souza, from west London, added he had not really faced up to his benefit fraud because his writing was such an irregular source of income.

He was ordered to complete 160 hours of community service.

The TV series he created centres around the all-mouse reggae band Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew, who perform songs as well as solving mysteries for the president of Mouseland.

After De Souza admitted fraud, the judge Christopher Hehir said: "Not even Da Easy Crew can get him out of this one."

He added: "I've got young children and I used to be a fan of Rastamouse.

"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.

"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."

De Souza, who left Trinidad when he was five to join his parents in the UK, previously worked as a swimming teacher to the children of celebrities including Stella McCartney and Sir Richard Branson.

He came up with the idea for Rastamouse from stories he would tell his daughter and some of his students.

The first Rastamouse book was published in 2004 and the story was turned into a hit TV show in 2011.