A MAN who claimed £10,000 in benefits he was not entitled to has been spared a prison sentence.

Stephen McHugh pleaded guilty to failing to notify South Lanarkshire Council that he had a change in circumstances that he knew would affect his entitlement to his housing benefits.

Between July 2014 and July 2019, McHugh did not declare that he had inherited £16,000 and therefore obtained housing benefit to the value of £10,000 to which he was not entitled to.

The 42-year-old appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday to be sentenced.

The procurator fiscal depute said: “The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had received information relating to fraud.

“The accused was asked to attend the DWP office to be interviewed. An interview was carried out. During that interview it was indicated that he held savings in his account that belonged to his brother and that his brother was in custody, so he was holding it for him.

“However, bank statements showed that sums of money from that account was being withdrawn. Following the interview, enquiries were carried out leading to the accused being arrested and cautioned and charged.”

McHugh’s lawyer said his client “failed to communicate the full picture.”

He added: “I think it’s a lack of clear communication.”

Glasgow Times:

But Sheriff Patricia Pryce disagreed. She said: “I have to disagree with that. During the interview he told them that he was holding this money for his brother.

“He had opportunities to say I’m holding half of it for my brother, but he didn’t, because he knew it would have affected his benefits.”

The solicitor said: “I think it’s a lack of communication, he was very candid in respect of everything else including bank statements.

“But it is a mess. It’s put him in a situation where he’s facing a custodial sentence however, there are alternatives available. He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”

The sheriff told McHugh: “This is a matter which you could get sent to prison for quite a long time. It’s a very serious matter. You were dishonest in your dealings with the DWP.

“There is an element of serious dishonesty, but I’m persuaded to deal with this as a direct alternative to custody.”

McHugh was ordered to stay within his home address in Rutherglen between 8.30pm-6am for 240 days, reduced from 300 days due to his guilty plea.