Benefit cheat spared jail after £14k fraud

A benefit cheat from the borough narrowly avoided jail for fiddling £14,000.
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' CourtWigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court

Shaun Gibson received housing benefit and Jobseekers’ Allowance between September 2015 and February 2018, despite having found a job a month before his first claim.

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The 46-year-old, of Keats Close in Atherton, had been working “sporadically” as a security guard (at one point he helped restore order in the aftermath of the Manchester bomb), and wrongly believed he did not have to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of any paid work up to a certain amount of hours.

Wigan magistrates gave Gibson a suspended prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.

The court heard he had first made a claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) in September 2015, even though he had started a job as a security guard in August.

It was only last February that Bolton Council were made aware of his employment and contacted Gibson to investigate the issue.

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He initially denied the allegations, but admitted his wrongdoing when shown copies of forms he had filled out which falsely stated he was unemployed.

He had already started paying back the DWP before legal proceedings began.

Defending, Kevin Liston said Gibson had been working on a “sporadic, ad hoc” basis, which had triggered the offence. He had a “chequered” employment history in recent years, and a previous conviction had caused him to lose his licence and job as an HGV driver.

Mr Liston added: “Regrettably, he spoke to a friend and was told, incorrectly, that he could work ‘X amount’ or earn ‘X amount’ per week without having to declare it.”

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A member of the probation service told the bench that Gibson fully understood his actions were dishonest and that he had expressed remorse for his crime, saying “at the time, he was a different person.”

The bench handed Gibson 16 weeks in custody, suspended for two years. He must also pay £335 in costs, complete 150 hours’ unpaid work and 10 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.