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Ex-soldier avoids jail over £33k housing benefit fraud

A former soldier received a suspended sentence after he falsely claimed more than £33,000 in housing benefits for almost a decade.

Richard Skelly (54), of Bowness Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud and failing to declare a change of circumstances.

Belfast Crown Court heard how Skelly had applied for housing benefit in March 2003 but had failed to declare he was in receipt of an Army pension of £211 per month and that his partner was living with him.

A prosecution lawyer told Judge Donna McColgan QC that the total amount Skelly falsely claimed over almost 10 years was £33,245.75.

"This was falsely claimed from the beginning, one month after his partner moved in with him,'' he said.

The court was told that Skelly was claiming £91 per week when in fact he was only entitled to £17.20 per week.

The lawyer added that no confiscation proceedings were being taken as Skelly was paying the money back.

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A defence barrister said Skelly had been in the Army for 12 years.

Judge McColgan QC said Skelly had a clear record and admitted his guilt at an early stage. The judge said the appropriate sentence was 12 months suspended for three years.

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