A GRANDFATHER from Bodmin has been spared jail after he fraudulently claimed more than £4,000 in benefits and pension credit over a 12-month period.
At Truro Magistrates' Court, Brian Read, of Brownlow Place, pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to inform the authorities about changes in his circumstances, which affected his entitlement to claim.
The court, sitting on Friday, February 14, heard that between January 17, 2012 and December 11, 2012, the former groundsman at Lanyhdrock Cricket Club was living with his partner without informing Cornwall Council.
Karen Tambling, for the prosecution, told the court Read had received a total of £4,054.42 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and pension credit he was not entitled to during the 12-month period.
Chris Nicholls, for the defence, said Read was of previous good character and had not set out to deceive the authorities.
"He is nearly 75 years of age and has not been in trouble at all with the law apart from a motoring matter 30 years ago," Mr Nicholls said.
"When he initially claimed in 2006 everything was correct and above board.
"When he got together with his partner he didn't immediately tell anybody."
After receiving a claims renewal letter, Read told the council his partner had been living at his home since January 2012, Mr Nicholls told the court.
"He was open and frank about it," Mr Nicholls said.
"Arrangements are in place to repay those overpayments and will continue into the foreseeable future," he added.
Handing Read a conditional discharge for 18 months, the presiding magistrate Geoff Pearce, told the pensioner he had been given "relatively low-end punishment" for his offences.
"You will not actually be penalised for these offences today. However, if you are brought to court for any other reason at all this could be dealt with in a different way," Mr Pearce said.
Cornwall Council said it will always prosecute benefit cheats and seek to repay money that has been wrongly claimed.
"The council operates a zero tolerance policy to fraud and corruption," said Alex Folkes, Cabinet member for finance and resources at Cornwall Council.
Mr Folkes added: "We will always prosecute and seek to recover any money which has been overpaid as it helps to safeguard services for people across Cornwall."
Anyone who suspects fraud is occurring is asked to call the council's confidential fraud hotline on freephone 0800 7316125.