A retired nurse received thousands of pounds in benefits she was not entitled to after failing to reveal she was getting an NHS pension.
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court gave Jannette Nicol, from Hindley Green, a curfew for dishonestly making a false statement for money.
Nicol, of Buchanan Drive, had already pleaded guilty to gaining £6,539 over a period of more than two years due to the incorrect information she put on the forms for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Nicol, 60, originally told police it was an honest mistake but then admitted the fraud, which took place between December 2014 and February 2017.
The bench decided that despite the shame and remorse felt by Nicol, who was emotional in the dock and had no previous convictions, and descriptions of her physical and mental health difficulties, the offence warranted a community punishment.
The court heard Nicol had been forced to give up her job in the health service which she loved aged just 53 due to health problems.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) accepted she had a long-term illness and did not need to send in repeated sick notes but she then did not inform them when she began receiving her NHS pension on turning 55.
This came to light when the DWP made further background checks on the nature of Nicol’s illness, prosecutor Tim McArdle told the court.
Mr McArdle said there was fraud committed from the outset of the claim.
Karen Moorfield, defending, said coming to court for the first time late in life had been a devastating experience for her client.
Mrs Moorfield said: “This is not the highest amount of over-payment that comes before these courts. She accepts she was dishonest and had she had legal advice and someone to talk it over with at the police station may not have initially said it was just a mistake.
“She was fearful of attendance at court and is very distressed this has been hanging over her head. She just wants it over and done with.
“She is a lady of previous good character and knows this will be a stain forever on that reputation. She took pride in her work and in public service.”
A representative of the National Probation Service said she had spoken to Nicol about the consequences of benefit fraud in giving claimants a bad name and making life hard for those with legitimate needs.
Nicol was also told it was ultimately the taxpayer who foots the bill for this kind of offence.
Mrs Moorfield said she was concerned about a curfew as Nicol suffers from anxiety and depression and being unable to leave the house could have a claustrophobic effect on her.
However, after discussion the magistrates concluded a conditional discharge was not enough for the gravity of the offence. Nicol was given a four-week curfew and ordered to pay £85 in costs and an £85 victim’s surcharge. The court heard she was already repaying the money due to the DWP.