Suspended jail terms for £30k benefits fraud couple
A couple who both claimed benefits worth around £30,000 while in managerial posts at two local companies have avoided jail.
Dunmurry couple Michael Rennick (56) and his 52 year-old wife Brenda - who Judge Gordon Kerr said "acted together" - were each handed suspended sentences for benefit fraud.
Belfast Crown Court heard that during the time they made false declarations to the Social Security Agency, Michael Rennick was registered as company secretary at Lagmore Securities Limited, and Brenda Rennick was the company director of BR Pets Limited, trading as Mick's Pet Food.
The court heard there was no evidence that the couple, from Mount Eagles Crescent in Dunmurry, lived a lavish lifestyle.
Michael Rennick pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to declare a change in circumstances that would affect his Income Support between September 2007 and September 2008.
He also admitted two counts of making a false declaration with a view to obtaining Income Support, in September 2008 and again on April 2010.
His wife Brenda admitted one count of failing to notify the Social Security Agency of a change of circumstances that would affect her Carer's Allowance between September 2007 and March 2008.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis said Michael Rennick's offending occurred over five years and amounted to a total of £20,474.35 in Income Support, while his wife's offending lasted for three years, during which she was paid £9,837 in Carer's Allowance.
Mr Purvis said that the Rennicks were called in for interview following an investigation by the Social Security Agency.
Michael Rennick attended two interviews in 2013, whilst Brenda refused to attend interview on three separate occasions.
During interview, it was put to Michael Rennick that both he and his partner were involved in two separate companies between September 2007 and May 2011 - namely Lagmore Security and BR Pets.
Mr Purvis also told the court that Michael Rennick was making repayments of £74 a month which is being deducted from his current benefits.
Defence barrister Luke Curran, representing Michael Rennick, said his client's offending started off with a genuine claim.
Mr Curran said his client - who he described as a hard working man - co-operated and is now making repayments.
Tom MacCreanor, the barrister for Brenda Rennick, described his client as a hard worker who has personal vulnerabilities.
Passing sentence on the couple, Judge Kerr spoke of the "long term nature of the offending" which he said involved them "acting together".
Judge Kerr handed Michael Rennick a 12-month sentence, with a nine-month sentence handed to his wife. Both sentences were suspended for two years.
Before the couple left court, they were warned not to commit any further offences.