A MARRIED couple claimed £26,000 in benefits they weren’t entitled to, despite receiving an inheritance windfall.
Colin and Ann Hunter continued to claim housing and council tax benefit and income support after coming into a lump sum following the death of a family member.
The false claims were made between July 2006 and July last year and saw Ann Hunter, 61, receive £3,154 that she wasn’t entitled to and Colin Hunter, 60, £22,960.
The couple, of Byron Avenue, Boldon Colliery, should have told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and South Tyneside Council that they came into money after the death of Colin Hunter’s uncle.
The money took their bank balance to more than £16,000 – the cut-off point for being entitled to receive benefits.
Both pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting their entitlement to benefits, at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
The court heard that the couple had already paid back £12.852 and ordered Colin Hunter to repay the remaining £13,262 in one lump sum.
Jeanette Smith, prosecuting, said: “Mr Hunter had capital in excess of the £16,000 threshold and didn’t declare it.
“When he was interviewed about it, he said he knew he had too much money to keep claiming benefits and tried to reduce the amount he had so he could keep claiming.”
David Hatfield, defending, said: “They have both managed to get into their 60s without troubling the court before.
“They both were making legitimate claims until he received some money following an uncle’s death.
“He didn’t declare that and continued to claim.
“Mrs Hunter was overpaid £3,000 and she has paid that all back while Mr Hunter has paid £10,000 back towards his overpayment.
“This court case has been a worry for them for an awfully long time.”
Sentencing the couple, chairman of the bench Harry Metcalfe said: “We have taken a rather lenient view because of the trauma you have been through.
“It hasn’t been nice for you having this hanging over you for such a long period of time.
“We also have taken into account that you have already paid back a lot.
“What is also clear is that you have the funds to pay the rest back.”
Ann Hunter was given a 12-month conditional discharge with £85 costs.
As well as being ordered to repay the remaining £13,000, Colin Hunter was given a 24-month conditional discharge with £85 costs.