Hartlepool benefits cheat who pocketed £20k is spared jail

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A BENEFITS cheat claimed almost £20,000 he was not entitled after lying to pension bosses for five years.

David Berry, 66, pocketed £19,262 in pension credit after he kept quiet about two private pensions he was receiving.

Teesside Crown Court heard that Berry raked in an extra £280 a month in pension credit between August 2008 and February of this year.

Prosecutor Peter Sabiston said that for the whole of that time Berry was picking up two private pensions, including one for around £240 a month.

But he twice failed to declare the pensions to the Department of Work and Pensions in August 2008 and again in August 2011.

Mr Sabiston added: “This was dishonest from the outset.”

He admitted two counts of fraud by making dishonest statements to officials at an earlier hearing in Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court.

Victoria Lamballe, mitigating, said the offences came about as Berry tried to pay his mortgage and repair his home after he was forced to retire through ill health in 2001.

Ms Lamballe said: “It was a decision he regrets. He hasn’t used the money to fund any lavish lifestyle.

“It was simply to keep his house in a state he could live in.”

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said: “This is a form of cheating which hurts the public purse.

“Every penny you take dishonestly from the benefits pot means less to go around for those more deserving than you.”

Judge Bourne-Arton said prison was inevitable, but it could be suspended.

He added: “The reality is the public would be spending a lot more money if I was to lock you up for a period of some weeks because that’s all that would be involved.”

Berry, of Lowthian Road, Hartlepool, was given 14 weeks prison which was suspended for 18 months with supervision.