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18 Jul 2016

Sheriff: I'm not prepared to do nothing

A Dunfermline sheriff said he was “not prepared to do nothing” after being told there were “restricted” options for sentencing a Wellwood benefits cheat. (h/t Dave)

Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard that Maria Irving, 51, had health difficulties which presented “a restricted range of ways for the court” to deal with her offence.

She admitted that between October 15, 2013, and April 19, 2015, at her address and elsewhere, she knowingly failed to give prompt notification to the Department of Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances which she knew affected her entitlement to employment and support allowance, in that her partner was in employment, and she obtained £3,220.14 to which she was not entitled.

Solicitor Gordon Martin presented letters from a GP and community psychiatric nurse and said that apart from traffic offences, Irving was a first offender with no outstanding cases.

Mr Martin explained that repayment of £3,740 had been made, “which is greater than the sum to which she has pleaded guilty”.

He added that Irving's husband had arranged for a lump sum of £2,000 to be paid and £100 to be paid by direct debit. He continued: “Because of her health difficulties there are a restricted range of ways for the court to deal with this.”

However, Sheriff Charles Macnair remarked: “The alternative would be to do nothing. That would not be in the public interest not to reflect this criminality.” He imposed a restriction of liberty order of 68 days as a direct alternative to custody.

He told Irving: “Over a period of 18 months, you defrauded benefits of more than £3,000, which is a significant offence. The problem with benefit fraud is that it's relatively easy to commit and hard to detect. The resources which have to be diverted from other more worthy causes to detect benefit fraud are significant. The social work report leaves me with few options but I'm not prepared to do nothing.”

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