‘Custodial sentence’ warning for benefit fraud couple

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A Derry couple who admitted benefit fraud have been warned a custodial sentence is “almost inevitable”.

Donna McCool, (46), of Circular Road, pleaded guilty to false accounting and making a false declaration to obtain benefit.

Her husband 50-year-old Michael Harkin, also of Circular Road, admitted seven charges of making a false declaration to obtain income support. The offences were committed between September 1990 and November 2003.

Sentencing was adjourned for probation pre-sentence reports to be compiled on the defendants.

McCool and Harkin were released on continuing bail and will appear at the crown court for sentencing on May 16.

Judge Piers Grant told the couple benefit fraud is a “serious offence” as it “involved a substantial amount of money over a considerable period of time”.

He added that it is “almost inevitable a custodial sentence will be imposed”.