Sisters who illegally claimed €50,000 for dead father avoid jail
Judge takes mitigating factors into account for Alison and Gillian Walker
Judge Martin Nolan said the women knew what they were doing was wrong but they were unable to resist “easy money”.
Two sisters who fraudulently claimed over €50,000 in social welfare benefits on behalf of their father after he died have avoided a jail term.
Sentencing Alison Walker and Gillian Walker in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday, Judge Martin Nolan said the women knew what they were doing was wrong but that they were unable to resist “easy money”.
He took into account a number of mitigating factors, including that Alison Walker is six months pregnant and Gillian Walker is a single parent to four children.
“It would be unjust to imprison [Gillian Walker] and deprive her children of her care,” he said. He handed down a 2½-year sentence to both women and suspended each one on a number of conditions.
Alison Walker (32), with an address in Galtymore Drive, Drimnagh, pleaded guilty to four counts of stealing from the Department of Social Protection at Drimnagh Post Office between December 2013 and March 2016.
Gillian Walker (39), with an address in Oranmore Road, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty to four counts of stealing from the Department of Social Protection at Drimnagh Post Office between January 2013 and June 2015.
The court heard Alison Walker continued to claim carer’s allowance in relation to her father after his death in October 2013 while Gillian Walker claimed his State pension.
Alison Walker falsely claimed a total of €22,078 while Gillian Walker claimed a total of €32,398 in carer’s allowance and respite care grants.
Garda Shane Curtis told Diarmuid Collins, prosecuting, that the sisters were caught after the post mistress in Drimnagh Post Office became suspicious of their continued claims once she heard of their father’s death. She contacted the department and an investigation ensued.
Co-operated with gardaí
Both women co-operated with gardaí upon their arrest. Alison Walker has no previous convictions while Gillian Walker has a small number of convictions for road traffic matters.
George Burns, defending Alison Walker, told the court the women’s mother left the family home when they were young and they were brought up by their father.
He said Alison Walker was a woman of “limited intellectual ability”. She left school in second year and started claiming job seeker’s allowance from the age of 18. She became her father’s full-time carer when she was 25. He suffered from lung cancer, the court heard.
Mr Burns said while his client had stolen from the State, she had also been of some service to it by caring for her father in “very difficult circumstances”.
She has limited intellectual ability and didn’t understand the severity of the offence, he said. She is now working part-time as a cashier in a shop and earning between €70 and €80 a week.
She is entitled to further social welfare payments but has not requested them. Alison Walker pledged to pay back all the money she took but is not in a position to repay the department. She and her partner are expecting their first child later this year.
Alan Grace, defending Gillian Walker, said his client struggled in the wake of her father’s death and turned to drugs. She told gardaí she had a debt of €1,000. She now works in an off-licence part-time and is receiving family allowance as the single parent of four children. She is repaying the Department of Social Protection weekly.
Mr Grace said it was a crime of opportunism. “They had easy access to the money,” he said.
Judge Nolan said the loss to the State was considerable and the women knew what they were doing was wrong.
He accepted they were both remorseful for their actions. He said they had been good daughters to their father and there were “excellent” mitigating circumstances.