A DAUGHTER who carried on claiming her parents’ mining pension for more than four years after their death was told she is “extremely fortunate” not to be jailed.
Julie Scott used the stolen money to pay her mortgage and would still be claiming it today were it not for an anonymous tip-off, Durham Crown Court heard.
“Scott’s father was a miner,” said Tony Hawks, prosecuting. “He last worked at Elemore Colliery in Easington.
“When he died, his widow – the defendant’s mother – quite correctly received a widow’s pension.
“This was paid into the defendant’s account, but when the mother died in 2006 the defendant carried on receiving the money.
“Letters relating to the pension, purportedly signed by the mother, were received by the scheme’s administrators in 2009 and 2010.
“Clearly these were forged, and it is all but certain they were sent by the defendant.”
The court heard Scott received £297 a month until February of last year when the anonymous tip-off was made.
“The total over-payment was £15,211.84,” added Mr Hawks. “None of that money has been recovered.”
Scott, 46, of Braddyll Square, South Hetton, admitted fraud between May 25, 2006, and February 28, last year.
She has previous cautions and convictions for shoplifting.
Chris Morrison, defending, said in mitigation: “This was not a vicious fraud in the sense the defendant did not set out to financially hurt anyone.
“Neither is there any suggestion the loss has put the pension fund in any jeopardy.
“It was the mother who suggested the pension should be paid to Ms Scott’s account, but she accepts she should have stopped the payments when her mother died.
“The longer this went on, the harder it was to own up to it.”
The Recorder, Mr Ray Singh, sentenced Scott to a 12-month community order, including a night-time curfew of three months.
“Were it not for the tip-off, I’m convinced you would still be claiming this money today,” the recorder told Scott.
“Within two weeks of being arrested – when you knew you were in serious trouble – you were out shoplifting.
“You were shoplifting again after you had been charged with this offence of fraud.
“Count yourself extremely fortunate not to have gone to prison today.”