Belfast Telegraph

Mum-of-five dodges jail over £25k benefit fraud

BY MICHAEL DONNELLY

A mother-of-five who received £25,000 in benefits but continued to work has walked free from court.

Kathleen Gallagher, of Crocus Street in west Belfast, had failed to declare a £15,000 inheritance from the sale of her mother's home, but had used some of the funds to pay off her eldest son's debts, Belfast Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Joseph Murphy disclosed that 52-year-old Gallagher was working more than 20 hours per week on occasions in a shopping centre.

When interviewed she claimed that she had been told she did not have to declare earnings for working up to 16 hours per week.

Defence lawyer Eugene McKeena said that in addition to Gallagher's immediate guilty plea, she had made admissions to police with "absolutely no prevarication whatsoever".

Gallagher, he said, had been entitled to benefits, and had she declared her income would have been given tax credits in exchange.

Freeing her, Judge Donna McColgan QC said that in addition to Gallagher's guilty pleas, she took into account the mother had taken a responsible course in helping to clear her son's debt problems, and that none of the monies were used to pay for a lavish lifestyle.

It was clear from reports that Gallagher also suffered from health problems. She received a one-year sentence suspended for two years.

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