Derry man jailed for £43,000 benefit fraud

Bishop Street Court House.
Bishop Street Court House.
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A Derry man who admitted claiming benefits of over £43,000 in his brother’s name over a seven year period has been jailed.

Paul Martin William Kelpie admitted 13 charges of making false declarations with a view to obtaining benefits between 2002 to 2009, and a further charge of possessing articles in connection with fraud, namely an electoral identity card in his brother’s name.

Judge Philip Babington sentenced the 49-year-old father-of-eight from Harding Street to nine months in custody and a further nine months on license when he appeared before Derry Crown Court on Tuesday.

The judge said that Kelpie had made false claims for Housing Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Incapacity Benefit.

The court was told he admitted the offences shortly after being arrested and taken in for questioning.

“In my view you had little choice,” Judge Babington said, adding that Kelpie had defrauded £43,328.97p from “innocent tax payers”.

He said that the £6.70p the defendant was paying back every fortnight was “surely an insult to everybody’s intelligence”.

He said that there was a relevant criminal record in Kelpie’s case, and the offences now before the court had taken place over a long period.

Other factors taken into consideration included the fact that Kelpie had made no excuses after admitting the current offences, while there was no evidence of “any particularly luxurious living”.

“It is often said that these offences are easy to commit and hard to detect,” Judge Babington said.

“It is very unfair taking from honest citizens. They pay their taxes, they play by the rules and it is unfair you do this.”

He added that it was particularly unfair when there were other people with “unmet need going without”.

He told the defendant that had he not pleaded guilty he would have imposed a sentence of 27 months in the case.

Kelpie was also ordered to pay an offender’s levy fee of £25.

Earlier a barrister for the Crown told the court that the amount being repaid was “very small” and was being extracted from the defendant’s benefits.

A barrister representing Kelpie meanwhile had said that the defendant “doesn’t seek to minimise his culpability in any shape or form whatsoever”.

He added that through ill health, Kelpie had not been in a position to work for a number of years, and had suffered from mental health problems and alcohol abuse and addiction.