NI couple jailed for benefit fraud lasting 20yrs

A couple from Northern Ireland have been given a jail sentence after admitting to a 20 year period of benefit fraud that totalled £144,000.

Michael Cecil Harkin, 50, and Donna McCool, 46, both from Derry, admitted to 11 charges of fraud involving income support, jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. The court learned although the couple have six children together, they are not married, but declared that they were in order to claim the various benefits unlawfully. Ms McCool unlawfully obtained £76,800 in benefits, while Mr Harkin acquired £67,300.

Judge Grant at Londonderry Magistrates Court sentenced Mr Harkin to 8 months in jail, and Ms McCool to 4 months. However, upon hearing the sentence Mr Harkin began shouting obscenities at the Judge, and was taken into custody for contempt of court. His 8 month jail sentence has been postponed and is to be re-sentenced in Belfast.

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Everyone qualifies for Legal Aid at the police station regardless of their income, so it is absolutely free to call a solicitor. If the matter proceeds to Court your solicitor will assess your eligibility for Legal Aid for the full trial.