No jail for benefit scammer

Martina Murray
Martina Murray

A MOTHER, who failed to declare maintenance payments when she over-claimed more than €17,000 in benefits, has had sentencing adjourned to see if she is suitable for community service.

Martina Murray, 54, with an address at Olcovar, Shankill, Dublin 18 is facing prosecution by the Department of Social Protection.

She appeared before Judge John Brennan at Dublin District Court.

Judge Brennan said a sentence would be warranted but he thought because she has no prior criminal convictions community service is appropriate.

He adjourned the case until October for a probation report on her suitability to for 200 hours community service instead of a five-month prison sentence.

The court was told she did not declare she was getting €400 a month in maintenance payments from her child’s father. That meant she was less entitled to the one parent family a payment from January 2007 until July 2015. She should have received €37 a week less, the court was told.

The total amount allegedly over-paid was €17,590 and she has given back about €1,200. The charges are under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act.

In the district court the offence can result in a fine of up to €2,500 and a possible six-month sentence in addition to having to repay the social welfare authorities.

The court can only consider leaving defendants accused of benefit fraud without a criminal record if all the money has been repaid. The court heard that some€28 is now being deducted from her payment and at that rate it will take 14 years until the social welfare office has been fully repaid.

The defence said the woman would like to increase the repayments and there was a significant mitigation.

Her solicitor Siobhan Conlon said that the woman thought she was below the threshold, she had buried her head in the sand and did not make any gain. A doctor’s report on her medical problems was furnished to the judge.

The prosecution solicitor said, however, that “the forms say ‘are you receiving maintenance’ and she ticked ‘no’.”

Judge Brennan said it went on for a substantial period and it will take 14 years to repay but he noted she was apologetic and he said he was minded to be lenient.

He noted the defence said the woman did not intend to defraud the State but he remarked that “where she signed the forms, her intentions are quite manifest”.

Ms Conlon said her client was willing to do community service.