A grieving pensioner who claimed almost £15,000 in a four-and-a-half year benefit fraud has been shown mercy by a court.

Stephen McKenzie, 66, who suffered the loss of his partner, admitted trousering the cash by claiming Employment Support Allowance to which he was not entitled.

Paisley Sheriff Court heard McKenzie of Johnstone had collected the money from December 2015 to May 3, 2019 in payments to his bank.

However, he had failed to tell benefits bosses about “a change in circumstances” and continued to pick up the money.

Yesterday, he appeared before Sheriff Colin Pettigrew where he pleaded guilty to a charge of defrauding the Department for Work and Pensions of £14,868.

Procurator fiscal depute Victoria Keel said the circumstances of the offence were “self explanatory,” as prosecutors accepted his admission of guilt.

Defence agent Michael McKeown said his client had recently suffered a major bereavement and had been left “traumatised” by the prosecution.

He said the pensioner had also repaid the money in full to the DWP and has been left too scared even to claim benefits to which he may be entitled.

He said: “This man was suffering from bereavement issues when the overpayment was discovered.

“He was on medication and this experience was extremely traumatic for him.

“He should have kept a better level of awareness of matters but was unable to and this money was accrued in his account.

“When he found out about this, he was able to repay the money in full to the DWP and even paid more than was owed.”

He added his client has been left “reluctant to claim any benefits” because he has been scarred by a “traumatic experience”.

He said: “He is scared to claim benefits and the Crown still have a charge on his bank account.”

Sheriff Pettigrew voiced sympathy for the accused but said the court had an obligation to carry out its duties in dealing with the offence.

He said: “This is one of those cases where by reading the details that you get a totally different picture from the reality of what happened.

“I can only sympathise with you over the difficulties in the loss of a partner during that period of time.”

He added that as McKenzie had pleaded guilty to the offence as soon it came to light and had repaid all the money to the DWP, he was continuing the case for a short period, with a view to admonishing the accused.

The case will next call on May 4, where it is expected the Crown will confirm McKenzie’s bank account is no longer under investigation.

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