by Craig Borland

A CLYDEBANK benefits cheat has been spared a prison sentence after she claimed more than £12,000 in payments to which she wasn’t entitled.

Isobel Murdoch claimed the housing benefit from West Dunbartonshire Council over a six-year period despite increases in her wages, the first dating back to 2010, which meant she no longer qualified for the welfare payment.

Murdoch appeared in court for sentencing on Friday – when the presiding sheriff called her actions a case of “wilful blindness” rather than systematic and deliberate fraud.

Murdoch, 60, of West Thomson Street, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to failing to tell the council of a change in her circumstances on February 15, 2010, and to thus obtaining £12,266.04 in benefits to which she was not entitled.

The charge against Murdoch did not specify the period of time during which she had obtained the benefit – though her solicitor said it occurred “over a period up to and including 2016”.

Phil Lafferty, defending, told Dumbarton Sheriff Court: “She [Murdoch] had been in the habit of supplying wage slips on an annual basis as her case was reviewed.

“There was an assumption that, given that the employer and the agency that administered the benefit were the same body, there would have been some cross-referencing.

“It was made clear that wasn’t the case.

“she was wrong in not disclosing what were at times very tiny increments.

“A more significant increment came when she took on a second job.

“She didn’t make any attempt to hide her omissions from the investigators. She has pleaded guilty at a very early stage.

“She wanted the matter brought to a prompt resolution.

“She has, by and large, kept herself away from trouble over the years and hasn’t caused anybody any difficulty, but she recognises she’s in a very serious position.”

Sheriff William Gallacher said: “I accept there was some wilful blindness. But you obtained a significant sum to which you were not entitled over a period of time.

“The resources of any government department are limited, and those who obtain benefits to which they are not entitled do a very great disservice to the community.

“Had you set about deliberately creating an entirely fraudulent environment I would have to send you to prison. But I’m satisfied that you simply failed to pay adequate attention over a period of years.”

Murdoch was told to complete 180 hours of unpaid work in the community within the next nine months.