Belfast Telegraph

Clear record saves £36k benefits claimant from jail cell

BY MICHAEL DONNELLY

A 45-year-old woman who was overpaid £36,000 in benefits she was not entitled to escaped going to jail because of her guilty plea and previous clear record.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the reported low IQ of Pauline McCaughley also supported her suggestion that she did not understand fully the regulations governing benefit claims. Judge Kerr said that while the custody threshold had been passed, he would suspend her 18-month jail term for two years.

Defence lawyer Sean Patterson said McCaughley, from Old Colin, Dunmurry, saw her failure of informing the authorities as "something of a white lie, but now appreciates the seriousness of her circumstances".

Prosecutor Simon Jenkins said yesterday that for four years McCaughley had been over paid £36,000 in benefits she was not entitled to. Mr Jenkins said that the housewife had failed to disclose savings and other monies, which she had access to, although her initial benefits claims were legitimate.

The lawyer explained that Mrs McCaughley's husband had received a £100,000 payout, which was placed in their joint bank account. In addition, she had two bonds and other Isas amounting to £18,000 all well in excess of the level of savings, but had failed to disclose this.

Mr Jenkins said that while Mrs McCaughley was repaying the overpayments, she still faces a confiscation hearing, which could see her paying back even more money.

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