Prisoners claiming
benefit while behind bars

Criminals across Longford and the wider midlands region are continuing to claim social welfare whilst behind bars, a local District Court judge has said.

Criminals across Longford and the wider midlands region are continuing to claim social welfare whilst behind bars, a local District Court judge has said.

Judge Seamus Hughes, speaking at last week’s Longford District Court sitting, said he had learned of the development in recent weeks as evidence was heard into the case of a convicted drug dealer.

Polish national Marcine Gibbert, with an address at Flat 4, Victoria House, Market Square, Longford, was sentenced to a total of 17 months for drug possesion, public order and diesel theft charges.

In handing down the sentences, Judge Hughes directed gardai to notify Department of Social Welfare chiefs to halt Mr Gibbert’s social welfare payments during the course of his prison term.

“It has come to my knowledge that this (social welfare) is going on while these people are in prison,” he said.

Judge Hughes’ comments came after gardai revealed four penal warrants were currently outstanding for Mr Gibbert’s arrest.

The judge was also harshly critical of how two diesel drive off thefts in Co Roscommon last March, amounting to around €250, had left petrol station owners severely out of pocket.

Branding the thefts as nothing more than an “evil deed”, Judge Hughes asked Mr Gibbert: “Do you realise these two filling stations, as a result of your drive offs, will have to sell €12,500 worth if diesel to other customers so as to make a 2.06 per cent profit?”

As he revoked a previously enacted suspeneded sentence, the judge handed down a nine month sentence for possession of diarmorphine at College Park, Longford on November 1 2010.

Two seperate three month sentences to run consecutively were likewise recorded for the diesel thefts in Tulsk and Tarmonbarry, Co Roscommon on March 7 and 8 2012 with a further two month sentence imposed for a public order incident at Grian Ard, Ardnacassa last month.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said a crackdown on suspected or irregular social welfare payments was now in full flow.

“Since July 2011, the Department of Social Protection is obtaining prison data on a weekly basis. This is matched against the Department’s systems, in accordance with data matching regulations,” the spokesman said.

“As a result of data matching at this early stage after imprisonment any social welfare claims in payment are stopped as soon as possible after the person is imprisoned.

“In this manner, overpayments are minimised and the opportunity to continue to receive a payment while in prison is virtually eliminated.”