Belfast woman escapes jail over £40,000 benefits fraud

Rosena Doyle fraudulently claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit
Rosena Doyle fraudulently claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit

A north Belfast woman who claimed just under £40,000 in benefits that she was not entitled to has been handed a 12-month suspended sentence for the “serious fraud”.

Rosena Doyle was overpaid a total of £38,930.60 in Income Support and Housing Benefit after claiming money over a six-year period on the grounds her husband was no longer living with her.

Belfast Crown Court heard that when her case was investigated, it emerged that despite what she said, her husband had been living at the marital home on Belfast’s Rosevale Street.

The 53-year-old admitted three charges and was handed a suspended sentence by Judge Gordon Kerr QC. She admitted one charge of making a false declaration to obtain Income Support, and two charges of failing to declare a change in circumstance to the Social Security Agency (SSA) in respect of both Income Support and Housing Benefit.

Prior to passing sentence, Judge Kerr was told by Crown prosecutor Simon Jenkins that Doyle had been claiming Income Support from July 1990 and Housing Benefit from April 2014. She signed several forms declaring that she and her husband were separated and that he no longer lived at home.

In November 2014 Doyle was interviewed by an official from the SSA about suspicions surrounding overpayments made to her.

Mr Jenkins said Doyle initially made the case she and her husband separated in 1988, he was no longer living in the marital home but he was a regular visitor to the house to see their children.

However, during the interview it was put to Doyle that Rosevale Street was the address both her husband’s GP and his employers had on record for him.

She subsequently admitted to the overpayment – which occurred over a period from October 2008 to November 2014 – and is currently making repayments of £80 a month.

Noting Doyle’s offending occurred over a six-year period, Judge Kerr said: “This is serious fraud in terms of the financial amount as almost £40,000 was taken by this lady.”

He also noted there was no evidence that Doyle led an extravagant life – rather that she used the money for “the basics of life”.

Judge Doyle handed her a 12-month sentence, which he suspended for two years.