Fraudulently claimed £50,000 in benefits

Ryan James Fairlamb, 21, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court
Ryan James Fairlamb, 21, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court

A woman who admitted fraudulently claiming over £50,000 in benefits has received a suspended jail term.

Helen McGuigan, of Donegall Place, pleaded guilty to five benefit fraud offences committed between March 2006 and September 2012.

They included failing to declare a change of circumstances and making a false declaration to obtain benefits.

Derry Crown Court heard that the 51-year-old fraudulently claimed £50,960 in housing benefit, income support and employment support allowance when she had a job.

However, the court heard if she had been acting in a lawful manner and declared her employment she would have been entitled to £20,000 in tax credits.

The money was used for ‘day to day living’ and bringing up her family. It was revealed that McGuigan had a ‘severe personal problem’ at the time and was in debt.

The 51-year-old has an arrangement to repay the money and has repaid £990 so far.

Suspending a 12 month jail term for two years, Judge Phillip Babington said ‘these are serious offences, defrauding honest tax payers and honest benefit claimants. These cases are easy to commit and difficult to detect’.

He said the case crossed the custody threshold but in all the circumstances he would suspend that sentence.