Former coal worker's £16k benefit fraud

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A former coal worker who claimed £16,000 by failing to declare his miner's pension has been spared jail.

George Lowe was paid pension credits along with housing benefit and council tax relief on the basis he had no other income.

In reality, the 67-year-old who worked in the mines from before his 15th birthday, was receiving regular payments from his pension.

At Newcastle Crown Court Lowe, of Rutland Avenue, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud between 2007 and 2014.

Judge Robert Adams said it was "tragic" that a pensioner of such positive previous character would end up in court with a criminal record at his age.

The judge told him: "You have lost your good character, your good name.

"I have no doubt at all you will not trouble the courts again."

Lowe was sentenced to eight weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

The judge said the offending had to be marked with a prison sentenced as a deterrent to others.

He added: "Anything else would send out the worng message when £16,000 has been fraudulently obtained from the government and therefore from the tax payer."

Christopher Rose, defending, said Lowe is "mortified and deeply upset" by the loss of his good name and the face he now has a criminal record.

Mr Rose said the offences happened when Lowe was going through the breakdown of his marriage as well as the loss of his home and livelihood.

The court heard Lowe has so far paid back over £3,600 and will continue making repayments at £70 per week.