Benefits cheat, 73, was overpaid £16k

Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court

A pensioner who was overpaid more than £16,000 in benefits has been handed a curfew by magistrates.

Veronica Wilson, 73, must be at her home on Sherbourne Crescent, Ince, between 10pm and 9am after the curfew was imposed by Wigan And Leigh Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Magistrates decided the curfew would start at 10pm after her solicitor Melissa Fagan said it would allow her to continue to attend a dance class on Thursday evenings.

And a probation officer said she believed the dance class helped to address social isolation for Wilson.

Miss Fagan also asked for the curfew to be suspended for two weeks in June as she had already booked a holiday.

The court heard Wilson initially made a rightful claim for benefits.

She notified Wigan Council when her son Colin Wilson started living with her following the breakdown of his relationship.

But she did not tell the authorities about a change in her circumstances when Mr Wilson later spent a short time in prison and then returned to live with her.

It led to her receiving a total of £16,600.36 in overpayments in housing benefit and council tax benefit, the court heard.

Glenn Anderton, prosecuting, said: “She has signed various documents at various stages confirming that there has been no change in circumstances when of course that was not true.”

Wilson was interviewed and initially claimed she had told the council about the change.

But she pleaded guilty to failing to notify the council of the change of circumstances, which affected her entitlement to council tax benefit and housing benefit.

The offences covered June 2010 to March 2016 for housing benefit and March 2012 to March 2013 for council tax benefit.

Miss Fagan told magistrates: “This is a good claim that went bad.”

She said the claim for housing benefit and council tax benefit was “good” when it was made. But she did not tell the council when her circumstances changed.

Wilson told a probation officer she had spent the money on everyday bills, rather than anything excessive.

She had already paid back the overpaid council tax benefit and was in the process of repaying the housing benefit, the court heard.

Miss Fagan said Wilson was in poor health, with problems including high blood pressure, an irregular heart beat and arthritis.

An earlier hearing, at which Wilson entered her guilty pleas, had been adjourned by magistrates so a medical report could be obtained ahead of sentencing.

The medical form submitted by her GP said she would be unfit to carry out unpaid work, but there would be no issues with a curfew.

Sentencing, magistrates handed down a nine-month community order with a curfew, which will run from 10pm to 9am every day for 24 weeks.

The bench agreed to suspend the curfew from June 9 to 25, with those days added to the end of the period it would cover.

Wilson was also ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs and an £85 victim surcharge by magistrates.