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28 May 2018

Pensioner with inheritance claimed benefit

A benefit cheat pocketed more than £10,000 despite having an £85,000 inheritance in the bank, a court heard.

Nigel Collins claimed housing benefit from Rossendale Council on the grounds that he was in receipt of pension credit.

Prosecutor Tracey Yates told Burnley Magistrates Court that he started claiming housing benefit legitimately from October 2005, however he failed to tell the council about the £85,000 inheritance windfall from his father.

The court heard how the former lorry driver was overpaid £10,224.46 between April 2014 and July 2017. Collins pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to housing benefit.

Magistrates said they would not impose a custodial sentence because Collins had repaid all the money. The 69-year-old was given a two-month curfew order and ordered to pay £85 costs.

Miss Yates told the court that Collins was interviewed by the authorities in December 2017 and said his father had left him the inheritance money.

The court heard how Collins ‘didn’t consider it to be a change in circumstances and didn’t consider it to be savings’.

Miss Yates said: “It has been repaid by the defendant in full. The claim wasn’t fraudulent from the outset.”

Defence solicitor Cathryn Fell said Collins’ best mitigation was his early guilty plea and repaying all the money.

She said: “It wasn’t money he saved up himself so he didn’t think that was something he needed to declare.”

Miss Fell said Collins was going through a ‘traumatic time in his life’ and also sustained a neck injury at his home 15 years ago leaving him unable to work. A probation service officer who interviewed Collins at court said he ‘accepts full responsibility and continues to deny intent to commit the fraud’. He told the court: “He does have negative views of benefit fraud and said that if he had known then he would have reported the change of circumstances.

“It’s an isolated incident and out of character. He presents as a very low risk of reoffending.”

Sentencing, the magistrates said: “This was a lot of money that went missing but the big fact here is that you have paid it back very quickly and without fuss.”

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