A couple from Dunmurry who both claimed benefits whilst occupying managerial posts in two local companies were both given suspended sentences in court today.
Michael Rennick (56) and his 52-year old wife Brenda - who Judge Gordon Kerr said “acted together” - were each handed suspended sentences for benefit fraud amounting to around £30,000.
Belfast Crown Court heard that during the time they made false declarations to the Social Security Agency, Michael Rennick was registered as the company secretary of Lagmore Securities Limited, whilst Brenda Rennick was the company director of BR Pets Limited, trading as Mick’s Pet Food.
The court heard there was no evidence that the couple, from Mount Eagles Crescent in Dunmurry, lived a lavish lifestyle.
Michael Rennick pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to declare a change in circumstances that would affect his Income Support between September 2007 and September 2008. He also admitted two counts of making a false declaration with a view to obtaining Income Support. He made a false declaration in September 2008 and again on April 2010.
His wife Brenda admitted one count of failing to notify the Social Security Agency of a change of circumstances that would affect her Carer’s Allowance between September 2007 and March 2008.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis said Michael Rennick’s offending occurred over a five-year period and amounted to a total of £20,474.35 paid in Income Support, while Brenda’s offending lasted for three years, during which she was paid £9,837 in Carer’s Allowance.
Mr Purvis said that the Rennicks were called in for interview following an investigation carried out by the Social Security Agency. Michael Rennick attended two interviews in 2013, whilst Brenda refused to attend interview on three separate occasions.
During interview, it was put to Michael Rennick that both he and his partner were involved in two separate companies between September 2007 and May 2011 - namely Lagmore Security Ltd and BR Pets Limited.
Mr Purvis also told the court that Michael Rennick was making repayments of £74 a month which is being deduced from his current benefits.
Defence barrister Luke Curran, representing Michael Rennick, said his client’s offending started off with a geniune claim.
Mr Curran said his client - who he described as a hard working man - co-operated and is now making repayments.
Tom MacCreanor, the barrister representing Brenda Rennick, also described his client as a hard worker who has personal vulnerabilities.
Passing sentence on the couple, Judge Kerr spoke of the “long term nature of the offending” which he said involved them “acting together.”
Judge Kerr handed Michael Rennick a 12-month sentence, with a nine-month sentence handed to Brenda. Both sentences were suspended for two years.
Before the couple left court, they were warned not to commit any further offences.