A benefits cheat who hid his husband to claim thousands of pounds has been told he will not be sent to prison because of delays in the case against him.
A sheriff told conman Paul Barty he would be treated more leniently because of lengthy delays caused by the Department of Work and Pensions.
Sheriff James Macdonald launched a stinging attack on the Department of Work and Pensions for taking so long to bring the case to a conclusion.
He told Perth Sheriff Court it was a serious offence but he could not consider jailing Barty because the time taken meant it would be a breach of his rights.
‘A rather unusual case’
“This is a rather unusual case Mr Barty,” Sheriff Macdonald said. “I am very concerned at the apparent delay. Plainly the accused here comes to the court a number of years later.
“It could be said that in the circumstances this was a serious matter. But through the passage of time I must afford some sort of remedy for the delay.
“At least a significant part of that delay, prior to a report being made to the Procurator Fiscal, is unexplained. That causes you real prejudice.
“You could have been sentenced and served that in full by now. You have been significantly disadvantaged by having this matter hanging over you for a number of years.
“I am going to reflect that disadvantage to you. I am going to defer sentence for 12 months for you to be of good behaviour and to repay the sum in full.
“If you do both those things I am minded to treat you leniently.” The sheriff told the court he felt the delay in the case was “oppressive” to the accused.
“I wish to make it clear there is no criticism of the Crown here, but the question is about what happened before it reached the Crown.
“There is no immediately apparent reason for the delay in the Department of Work and Pensions delaying submitting their report to the Crown.
“The accused was formally notified about the charge against him by the DWP in February 2017. For reasons which are not clear, the Crown did not hear about this until nearly two years had passed.
“There is a delay here which I can only describe as unconscionable. It is not immediately clear there is any good reason for a large part of that.”
Barty, 49, Orchard Way, Inchture, admitted conning the DWP out of £3628.95 by telling them he was only living with his mother, for whom he was carer, in Clayton Road, Bridge of Earn.
He admitted failing to tell the agency he was, in fact, living with his employed husband while claiming Income Support between 8 July 2014 and 1 June 2015.
Fiscal depute Tina Dickie told the court Barty was first interviewed by the DWP compliance officer in October 2014 and again on May 12 the following year.
She said there had been an anonymous report that Barty had been living with his partner when he had claimed to only be sharing a house with his mother.
Mrs Dickie said “a great deal of inquiries” were carried out and Barty’s husband was called in to be interviewed by DWP investigators in February 2017.
She said the DWP investigation led to Barty being cautioned and charged in February 2017 but nothing was passed to the Crown until 2019.
Barty had faced a further charge of conning the agency out of another £3664.21 between between February 2016 and January 2017 but that was dropped yesterday by the Crown.
The DWP could not be contacted for comment.