Long Itchington benefit cheat ordered to pay back more than £10,000 but avoids jail

Court news
Court news

A man who claimed benefit payments despite having more than £55,000 in savings has been ordered to pay back the money he was overpayed, but has avoided jail.

Paul Shinners had pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by failing to declare his savings when claiming income-related support allowance.

Shinners, 62, of Leigh Crescent, Long Itchington, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 12 months by a judge at Warwick Crown Court.

Recorder William Edis QC also ordered him to pay £10,776 under the Proceeds of Crime Act and £340 in costs.

Prosecutor Henry Skudra said in 2013 Shinners had started claiming employment support allowance, and a year later he began claiming income-related support allowance.

The basis of his claim was that he was not in work and had no employment or savings.

But in fact it was later found that at the time he made his claim, he had savings totalling £55,183 spread across four building society accounts and a bank account.

Over the period of the fraud from January 2014 until April last year, that figure gradually dropped to £36,500 – which Mr Skudra pointed out was still above the maximum figure at which he could claim such benefit.

And over that period Shinners had been paid £11,719 to which he was not entitled.

Explaining that some of the money has been recovered by being deducted from benefits Shinners was still entitled to, Mr Skudra asked the judge to make a confiscation order for £10,776.

And Jasvir Mann, defending, said Shinners, who has medical issues which mean he would be unsuitable to carry out unpaid work, agreed to the confiscation order.

Recorder Edis commented: “He seems, from the pre-sentence report, to think there’s nothing much wrong with what he’s done. He would know there was if there was a suspended sentence.”

And he told Shinners: “Over two years you continued to claim a particular benefit to which you were not entitled because you had capital over the prescribed limit.

“I don’t believe for a moment you didn’t know you had this money. This was a sustained piece of fraud. However, it was not fraudulent from the outset.

“This case clearly crosses the custody threshold, but I am not going to send you to prison. Because of your assets, you are able to make full restitution to the public purse.”