Civil servant reported by her brother for making fake welfare claims

Court told woman (33) stole €6,736 while working in branch of Department of Social Protection

A Dublin civil servant who stole over €6,500 in fake Jobseekers allowance claims under her brother’s name has received a three and a half year suspended sentence.

Jacqueline Walsh (33) was brought to the attention of gardaí by her brother, William Walsh, after he tried to make a Revenue claim and discovered false claims had been made under his name.

Walsh, with an address in Millbrook Lawns, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of stealing money from the Department of Social Protection between October 2011 and May 2012. Eight other counts were taken into consideration.

The mother-of-four stole a total of €6,736 over nine months while she was working in the Tallaght branch of the Department of Social Protection.

The court heard that Walsh had accessed details in relation to her brother’s PPS number.

Judge Karen O’Connor said on Wednesday she had “not lightly imposed a wholly suspended sentence” and had very seriously considered custody.

She noted the premeditation involved and said: “Better services can be provided to those in need and to children in need if the Exchequer is not at a loss”.

The judge took into account Walsh’s difficult upbringing, past tragedies and that she provided for two young children with health difficulties when passing sentence.

Judge O’Connor said she saw no reality in imposing community sanctions on Walsh given her personal circumstances and family commitments.

She suspended the sentence for three and a half years and ordered that Walsh undergo 18 months of probation service supervision and complete victim focused work.

Detective Garda Colin Rochford told prosecution barrister, Karl Finnegan BL, that three claims were made in the name of William Walsh under three different staff member user names within the department. None of these user names belonged to Jacqueline Walsh.

The court heard that a culture existed in the Tallaght office back in 2011 whereby computers were regularly left unlocked and employees could access each other’s user names.

Walsh resigned from the department shortly before her offending came to light in 2015 and moved to a company. When interviewed by gardaí­ she said she did not have the expertise to carry out the claims, but admitted to receiving the money into her account.

Her superior however told gardaí­ Walsh was competent at accessing the claims system.

Det Gda Rochford agreed with defence barrister Kieran Kelly, that gardaí­ were unable to prove who carried out the claims.

The court heard Walsh has no previous convictions save for some minor road traffic offences. None of the stolen money was recovered.

Mr Kelly said Walsh has four young children, including two with health issues. She is currently on maternity leave and is receiving state maternity benefit.

Her partner is a full-time carer for his father and receives a carers’ allowance.

Mr Kelly said Walsh was remorseful for her actions. “Ordinarily, she is a good person and she wants to move forward,” he said.