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30 Jan 2019

And another light benefit fraud sentence

An "immature" unemployed father-of-seven from Stockton who dishonestly claimed more than £30,000 in benefits has been spared jail.

Dishonest Paul Ferguson, 32, attended Teesside Magistrates' Court on Thursday, facing the prospect of custody, after he admitted nine charges over a six year period.

But magistrates gave the Stockton father a community order after hearing he has three-month-old premature twins, along with five other children.

The court was told from a probation worker that "he believed he would get away with it as he was aware of persons that had also done similar things".

Prosecutor Lynne Dalton said the offences spanned a period from 2011 to 2017, in which time he was overpaid a whopping £31,542.

The charges included lying to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Stockton Council about the fact he was living with a former partner in order to claim benefits, a council tax reduction, and job seeker's allowance.

When Ferguson was interviewed, he initially denied he'd been living with his ex, or had ever lived with her. But after evidence was presented to him, including the fact that the couple had announced their engagement on Facebook in 2012, he "admitted that they were in fact co-inhabiting".

The probation service explained to the court that the former security worker, who hasn't had a job since 2017, had been motivated by money worries.

The court heard: "He maintained money was used towards household bills and not luxury items".

She added that he displayed "immaturity" and has "some learning difficulties and dyslexia".

Andrew Foster, mitigating, said his client is "a man who can come across as immature and naive at times", claiming he "has learned a very harsh lesson".

He added that the claims weren't fraudulent from the outset and were not used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Mr Foster explained that Ferguson has arranged to pay the money back - to be taken from his £884 a month benefits - adding: "He wants to make amends", after pleading guilty to the offences.

Magistrates told Ferguson they would not be sending him to prison, despite a 12 month sentence being available to them. They sentenced him to a 12 month community order, 300 hours of unpaid work, a 12 week curfew, £85 in costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

Source

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