Aberdeen benefits cheat narrowly avoids jail

An Aberdeen woman has been ordered to carry out unpaid work after fraudulently claiming £12,500 in benefits she wasn’t entitled to.

Linda Elrick, 62, appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court yesterday where she was sentenced for the offence which took place between April 30, 2012 and August 28, 2015.

Elrick, whose address was given in court papers as Jesmond Avenue, in Bridge of Don, previously admitted failing to notify officials in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that her partner had obtained employment and was in receipt of earnings.

Les Green, Elrick’s solicitor, told the court his client had a number of health difficulties, but would be capable of doing unpaid work and carrying out light duties.

He said: “One of the things she enjoys doing is painting ceramics.”

But Sheriff Graham Buchanan said: “It’s not much of a punishment if she enjoys doing it. It’s just exercising her hobby.”

Sheriff Buchanan said he had previously imposed a jail term in a case involving a similar amount, but had seen this overturned on appeal.

He said: “The appeal court took the view that a custodial sentence was excessive for an amount of just about this sum.

“It was an educational experience for me and it acts as guidance to me as to how to deal with these cases in the future.”

In sentencing Elrick, Sheriff Buchanan told her: “This is a serious matter and you obtained £12,500 of public money to which you were not entitled as a result of failing to disclose at the appropriate time that your partner was working and earning money.

“In your case the sum involved is such that you are on the margin of a sentence of imprisonment or a direct alternative.

“In light of personal experience I have in dealing with cases like this it seems to me that your case just tips on the side of a non-custodial sentence.”

Sheriff Buchanan ordered Elrick to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work over the next 10 months and told her: “It won’t necessarily be the type of work that Mr Green has described.”