Published: 10:00, 10 July 2014
A Canterbury couple illegally pocketed state benefits for four years – then claimed they forgot they had £59,000 in the bank.
Owen Linkins, 53, and his 64-year-old wife Kathleen said the family inheritance cash had slipped their minds as they claimed £24,000 in handouts.
But a judge told the pair this week: “You weren’t forgetful, you were greedy and dishonest.”
They were due for trial before magistrates in April but then entered guilty pleas to the fraud charges – Owen for claiming £13,600 and his wife £10,380.
The Linkins, of Seymour Place, have now repaid the defrauded cash, but face another £1,000 bill for prosecution costs.
Both had claimed they only had a few hundred pounds in their single bank account when each of them made separate claims for benefits.
In reality, they had three other secret accounts in which the £59,000 inheritance from the will of Mrs Linkins’ mother had been deposited two years before the claims had even started.
Judge Simon James told them: “In truth, far from being impoverished, you were financially comfortable.”
He said they had taken money from the state which was designed “to safeguard those in real need”.
He added: “Far from being a terrible mistake, this was plain and simple theft. You have not been treated unfairly, which both of you claim.
“To try and suggest you simply forgot you had inherited £50,000 is just incredible.
“In the present economic climate, when there is not enough money to go around, those like you who take what they are not entitled to bear a culpability beyond your personal gain.”
Mrs Linkins, who appeared at Canterbury Crown Court in a wheelchair, sat huddled with her head in her hand.
Her white-haired husband sat behind her in the dock as lawyers said the couple had not used the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
In giving them suspended jail sentences, the judge said he couldn’t detect any true remorse “over and above self-pity”.
Sentence had been postponed last month after lawyers for the couple claimed they wanted to repay the cash but did not know where to send the cheques.
“You and others like you... must understand you cannot buy your way out of punishment. Nor can you simply avoid the consequences of your actions because you are elderly or infirm" - Judge Simon James
Since then, the money has been repaid to the DWP in full by the couple, who both have health difficulties, the court heard.
But the judge told them: “You and others like you, however, must understand you cannot buy your way out of punishment.
“Nor can you simply avoid the consequences of your actions because you are elderly or infirm.
“Neither of you could have much complaint if I sent you straight to prison.”
He said there were others who faced similar challenges as the Linkins but had not resorted to theft and may think the couple should have been jailed.
They were each given a 12-week jail sentence suspended for 18 months.
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