Belfast Telegraph

£46,000 benefits fraudster avoids jail sentence

A benefits fraudster who admitted 'doing the double' for the second time has walked free from court after being handed a suspended jail sentence.

Freeing a visibly relieved Linda Watton, Deputy Recorder of Belfast, Judge Corinne Philpott QC, told her she was inclined to believe her "unusual" explanation for stealing a total of £45,908 in benefits. The court heard Watton was using the cash to pay off drug debts her daughter owed to paramilitaries and loan sharks. The Belfast Crown Court judge told Watton her claims were a "double-edged sword because it's easy to say and hard to disprove". She added that "it is not a light sentence" and warned her that if she committed another offence in the future "you will go to jail".

Watton, from Parkgate Drive in east Belfast, had pleaded guilty to four charges of benefit fraud in relation to income support and housing benefit on diverse dates between June 13, 2005 and March 5, 2009. Prosecuting lawyer Peter Magill said the DHSS investigated Watton's work record and uncovered that during the time she had been claiming benefits, she had been working as a cleaner.

Mr Magill said it was the second time Watton had been in court for benefit fraud. Judge Philpott handed down a four-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, saying she saw no advantage in jailing Watton.

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