BENEFITS CHEAT: Leeds man claimed to be bachelor – but has a common law wife of 20 years

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A PENSIONER who fleeced the taxpayer of £26,000 by claiming to be an unemployed bachelor has been spared jail.

A court heard Brian Dockerty lied to authorities that he lived alone despite living with his common law wife for 20 years.

Dockerty, 65, made illegal claims for job seekers allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit and council tax credit over a five-year period before the offending came to light.

Austin Newman, prosecuting, said Dockerty had been paid the benefits on the grounds that he was unemployed and single.

The offending came to light in September 2014 when the Department of Work and Pensions established that he lived with his partner, Judith Dockerty. Investigations revealed his partner had worked for the same employer since 1989. It was also discovered that they had been living together since 1996. In the same year she had changed her surname to Dockerty despite the couple never marrying.

The court heard Dockerty made false declarations about his circumstances on repeated occasion during the period of offending.

Mr Newman said: “When interviewed under caution the defendant claimed that Judith Dockerty was merely his girlfriend and did not live with him other than a couple of night per week. He was to say that she simply used his address for her mail because it was easier. Further investigation cast considerable doubt on that assertion.” Dockerty pleaded guilty to five offences of fraud. Stuart Field, mitigating, said Dockerty started the offending after he had been made redundant from his job as a painter and decorator. He was now repaying the money with the help of his son. Dockerty was given a 14 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 260 hours unpaid work. Recorder Kate Tulk said: “You had many opportunities to admit the truth and you chose not to.”