Nurse escapes jail for £58k benefit fraud

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A 52 year-old support nurse who fraudulently claimed almost £58,000 in benefits has avoided going to jail.

Sharon Nelson, 111 Primity Crescent, Newbuildings, admitted carrying out the fraud over an eight-year period, starting in 2003.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust employee appeared at Derry Crown Court on Tuesday where she pleaded guilty to six charges of fraudulently obtaining housing benefit, a carer’s allowance and income support when working as a support nurse.

Judge Piers Grant said that Nelson had a criminal record resulting from previous offences of deception and theft in 1994 and 2004. He said it was “quite clear” that she was no stranger to deception.

He said the crime “passes the threshold” for a custodial sentence, adding that it had to be made clear that people who “steal from the State” in this way will almost certainly go to jail.

Having said that he was “minded” to send Nelson to prison for a significant period of time, Judge Grant ordered the defendant to complete 240 hours of community service.

“You should be going to prison,” he said.

The court heard that Nelson is repaying the £57,925.40 at a rate of £100 per month.

She spent five days in custody after the case was adjourned last Thursday.