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Mother-of-seven avoids jail for unlawfully claiming almost €20k in lone parent benefits

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
McCarthy failed to appear at Dublin District Court
McCarthy failed to appear at Dublin District Court

A MOTHER-OF-SEVEN who pleaded guilty to unlawfully claiming almost €20,000 in lone parent benefits while she was married, has been given a €750 fine.

Denise McCarthy, 43, with an address at Griffith Heights, Finglas East, Dublin 11 was prosecuted by the Department of Social Protection.

Solicitor Joseph Maguire for the Department told Judge John O'Neill at the Dublin District Court that the fraud was €18,610 but the woman has paid back €8,640. 

"It relates to one parent family payments", the prosecuting solicitor said. He said McCarthy claimed the benefits in 2012 while she was married and living with her husband.

Her repayments have increased from €15 to €45 a week and is coming out of her carer's allowance and family income supplement. It will take four years and three months until the Department is been fully reimbursed.

She failed to turn up to the hearing today but Judge John O'Neill proceeded to finalise the case in her absence. The fine must be paid in three months or she will be jailed for 14 days in default, the judge said.

In June, McCarthy was in court and confirmed that she understood the charge and that she was admitting the offence. "I've seven kids, I'm finding it very hard," she told the court then. She had also said that she has complied social welfare authorities.

Judge O'Neill had then warned her he hoped there would be a significant reduction in the amount owed. The offence can result in a fine of up to €2,500 and or a six-month sentence in addition to being made pay back the amount of benefits wrongfully claimed.

The social welfare authorities have a mechanism to continue to recover money owed to them after court proceedings have concluded.