Man claimed €35,000 in benefits from the UK, court hears
Patrick Holly received disability allowance while working as a steel fixer in Reading
A 51-year-old man claimed more than €35,000 in disability benefits while employed as ‘a steel fixer’ in the UK. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Patrick Holly, of O’Connell Avenue, Listowel, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty at the court to obtaining payment of a disability allowance between November 9th, 2011, and May 27th, 2015, while knowingly concealing a material fact - that he was both residing in and employed in the UK during that period.
He had legitimately applied for and received the benefit while out of work and ill in Co Kerry in 2010, the court heard.
However, starting in November 2011 and continuing until the end of May 2015, Mr Holly was still receiving the €188 per week disability payment into his bank account – while earning £800 (about €924) a week as a steel worker in Reading, England. Garda Hilary Lynch, of the Garda special investigations unit into social welfare cases in the south, said “confidential information” about Mr Holly had been received by a social welfare inspector in Tralee.
Any person on disability allowance must notify the Department of Social Protection if they are leaving the State for any period, excepting two weeks’ holidays a year.
Under the Data Protection Act, information regarding flights taken by Patrick Holly was then sought from Ryanair.
Gardaí then applied for bank records, the garda said.
In June 2016, Ms Lynch arrested Mr Holly when he arrived into Farranfore.
“He made full admissions and was quite remorseful,” Ms Lynch said.
He agreed to pay back €50 a week and had paid back €3,400 so far, the garda said.
‘Mental health issues’
Brian McInerney, defence barrister, put it to Ms Lynch that Mr Holly had had “significant underlying mental health issues”.
He said Mr Holly had legitimately claimed the disability benefit while out of work initially, but had failed to sign off on it .
Appealing for mitigation, Mr McInerney said his client had no previous convictions.
He said Mr Holly had “no champagne lifestyle” and the Ryanair flights in and out of Kerry were €19.99.
However, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell said: “Whether or not he had a champagne lifestyle or took €20 flights is neither here nor there.”
The judge branded Mr Holly’s actions as “appallingly avaricious” behaviour.
The judge said that, in his view, repaying €50 a week was “too little”.
The judge agreed to adjourn the matter for 12 months, but warned he would like to see the State “reimbursed for every last euro”.
If there was any “slippage” in the agreement to repay the €50, the State could re-enter the matter, the judge said.
The Garda special investigations unit into social welfare matters regularly uses the provisions under the Data Protection Act to access travel records from Ryanair, the court also heard.