No jail for benefit fraud

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A retired teacher, who fraudulently claimed more than £30,000 in benefits, escaped custody with an alternative sentence of 200 hours community service.

The 66-year-old first offender failed to declare an occupational pension, and for some four years, received over £21,000 pension credit, when he lived in Muthag Street, Selkirk.

He also received more than £9,000 housing and council tax benefit over a two-year period.

Allan Baldwin of Peter Street, Rishton, Lancashire, admitted obtaining £21,217.80 pension credit to which he was not entitled, between July 25 2007 and August 21 2011.

He also admitted obtaining £9,091.76 housing and council tax benefit to which he was not entitled between January 6, 2009 and July 17, 2011.

Depute fiscal Tessa Bradley told how Baldwin, who retired early from teaching through ill-health, was receiving monthly payments to his bank account from an occupational pension.

When enquires were made, Baldwin confessed, “All I can say is that I have been ill for a long time.”

Defence solicitor Greig McDonell said his client had retired early in 1996 through ill-health.

“When he reached retirement age, he was entitled to state credits, and was suffering health difficulties when he applied,” he explained.

Mr McDonell said Baldwin realised he should not be receiving the benefits but “felt trapped and decided to stay quiet about it.

“He may have made a confused error initially, but became aware of that and had the opportunity to tell the benefits agency, which he didn’t,” conceded Mr McDonell.

The solicitor said his client was currently making repayments, but appreciated it would take a considerable time for the sum to be repaid.

He said Baldwin appreciated custody would be considered, but that such a disposal would have a severe impact on his family.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond told the accused: “You have pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining benefits in excess of £30,000 by failing to disclose and occupational pension.

“The amount owed to the public purse is being repaid,” he added.

“Custody would have been appropriate, but you have no previous convictions, which allows me to deal with this by the alternative.”

Baldwin was sentenced to a 12-month community payback order, with a condition he completes 200 hours of unpaid work.