Northern Ireland news

Derry couple lose Supreme Court appeal on benefit fraud

A Derry couple who dishonestly claimed £144,000 in benefits have lost a Supreme Court battle over facing confiscation orders.

In 2013, Michael Harkin, 55, and Donna McCool, 51, were jailed for eight and five months respectively after being convicted of a series of offences.

They made false declarations about their marital status in claims for income support, jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit.

Beginning in 1990, McCool's total fraud amounted to £76,800, while Harkin's reached £67,300.

Confiscation orders in the sum of £38,814 were later made against Harkin and McCool, with address at Circular Road and Glenabbey Street in the city.

The amount represented a recoverable sum for their half share in a jointly-owned property in Derry.

Lawyers representing the pair took their appeal to the UK's highest court after senior judges in Belfast rejected their challenge.

They argued that a Commencement Order within the Proceeds of Crime Act which came into force in 2003 meant none of the offences committed before then can be dealt with.

But Lord Kerr held that his would produce an anomalous result.

He said the appellants were effectively submitting that the jurisdiction of the court to make confiscation orders under the Act could be controlled by tactical decisions by the prosecution to not proceed with charging offences committed before the commencement date

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