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Supreme Court orders Belfast fraudster Bernadette Hilton to repay £10k

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Five Law Lords reinstated the repayment order, ruling that it was valid and that the decision of Appeal Court had been wrong. (stock photo)

Five Law Lords reinstated the repayment order, ruling that it was valid and that the decision of Appeal Court had been wrong. (stock photo)

Five Law Lords reinstated the repayment order, ruling that it was valid and that the decision of Appeal Court had been wrong. (stock photo)

The UK's highest court has ordered a Belfast woman who admitted large scale benefits fraud to pay back more than £10,000 of the money she received.

Bernadette Hilton had obtained income support but had not disclosed that she had part time employment at the time if receiving the benefits.

Hilton - who at the time was living in a £175,000 house in Dunmurry of which she was co-owner - pleaded guilty in 2015 to benefits fraud and was given a suspended two-year jail sentence at Belfast's Crown Court.

She was also ordered to pay back £10,263 of the £16,517 she had fraudulently obtained or face six months in jail.

The figure was set at £10,263 - the value, after the mortgage was taken into account, of her half share of the Dunmurry house she owned with her former partner.

However, the repayment order was challenged and the Northern Ireland Appeal Court allowed Ms Hilton's appeal against it on the basis that her former partner and the building society were not made aware of what was happening.

Yesterday though that decision was overturned by the UK's highest court, the Supreme Court in London.

Five Law Lords reinstated the repayment order, ruling that it was valid and that the decision of Appeal Court had been wrong.

Lord Kerr - who was sitting with Lords Wilson, Lloyd-Jones, Briggs and Lady Arden - said in a judgment running to over 4,000 words that the question of whether Ms Hilton's former partner and the building society should have been informed of what was happening did not arise in this case.

He said it would be open to them to make representations at future proceedings to enforce the order.

But Lord Kerr continued: "The appeal is therefore allowed and the learned judge's order is restored."

Belfast Telegraph