Spared jail after false £25k benefit claim

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A Hayfield man who claimed almost £25,000 in benefits after failing to declare capital of almost £180,000 has narrowly avoided a jail sentence.

Alan Burgess applied for pension credit for himself and his wife in February 09, telling the Department for Work and Pensions that he had only small savings of £2,500, High Peak Magistrates’ Court heard.

However, a routine data matching exercise in February 2012 discovered Burgess actually had funds of £179,796.67 in a joint account at the Derbyshire Building Society, prosecutor Jennifer Fitzgerald said.

His pension credit, which also entitled him to council tax credit, had continued to be paid between 2009 and February 2012, leading to overpayments totalling £24,994.37, the court heard.

Burgess, 68, of Kinder Road, admitted dishonestly producing or furnishing a false document or information to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Russell Wild, defending, said all the money had now been paid back. He added: “The initial claim was made back in 2009 when he reached retirement age and was told that he was due £72 a week (pension). When he expressed surprise at that he was told he might be able to claim pension credit.

“He didn’t reveal a large amount of capital which was always going to be his wife’s inheritance and not his money. He should have declared it and he didn’t.”

Burgess was given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. He must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £100 costs. No order for compensation was made.