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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Magistrate admits benefits fraud
A former lay magistrate and teacher has been ordered to complete 200 hours of community service for falsely claiming more than 40,000 in benefits.

Lisa Pinkerton, 41, from Queen's Parade in Bangor, admitted three charges between January 2002 and May 2004.

She was discovered to have been working as a teacher and had married while continuing to claim income support and housing benefit.

The court was told Pinkerton had paid back 41,398.

Prosecuting lawyer Ian Tannahill said she had falsely received 31,585 income support along with a further 9,813 housing benefits.

During police interviews, Pinkerton admitted that although her claims were initially legitimate, more recent claims had been false.

While she had not notified the authorities about her teaching work she did tell them she was working as a lay magistrate.

Defence lawyer Ciaran Mallon said there was no suggestion the money had been used to fund an "extravagant lifestyle" but rather Pinkerton had used the cash to bring up her children.

Belfast Crown Court Judge Derick Rogers told Pinkerton although her offences deserved a custodial sentence, it was an "important factor" she had paid back the money, adding "that's not to say that one can buy oneself out of these offences".

He said although the fraud was not the biggest to come before the courts, "it's not insignificant either".

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