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Co. Armagh man who fraudulently claimed £37,000 in benefits spared jail

Craigavon Magistrates Court

A Craigavon man who admitted £37,000 of benefit fraud was handed a suspended jail sentence on Wednesday.

Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC said while the offences committed by Terry McCune crossed the custody threshold, given mitigating factors such a his medical difficulties, guilty plea and repayment plan, he would suspend the 12 month jail sentence for three years.

He told 63-year-old McCune, who appeared at court by videolink from his own home, “you are getting a chance – please don’t get into this sort of activity again” or he would face going to jail.

At an earlier hearing McCune, from Russell Drive, entered guilty pleas to each of the three charges of benefit fraud against him in that between October 1, 2012 and January 7, 2018, he fraudulently claimed Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance by not disclosing that he was living with his partner who was “in remunerative work”.

Prosecuting lawyer Joseph Murphy told the court that in essence, McCune benefits claims began as legitimate but he failed to tell the authorities when his wife began living with him.

In total, he fraudulently claimed a total of £37,458 and that, to date he has repaid just over £3,000 as part of an agreed repayment plan.

McCune has been repaying £105 per month so when that is divided into the remaining amount, it will take 27 years to make full restitution by which stage he will be 90-years-old.

Defence counsel Colm Fegan said it was accepted that “it’s a considerable amount of money which were public funds”.

He revealed that in addition to numerous health problems which resulted in him being “medically retired” eight years ago, father and grandfather McCune has “recently had a leg amputated” due to gangrene.

Sentencing McCune, Judge Lynch told the fraudster that his “theft, for that is what it is, of £37,000 from the public revenue is a very serious matter.”

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