A 48-year-old offender has been handed a suspended sentence for a £14,000 benefit fraud.

Matthew Johnston didn’t declare painting and decorating work he was doing after being signed off sick.

After pleading guilty to 10 counts of benefit fraud, magistrates sentenced him to nine months custody, suspended for two years.

Johnston was also made the subject of a two-year suspended sentence supervision order.

He is already paying back the money via an agreement with the treasury at a rate of £10 per week.

We previously reported that Johnston, who lives at King Street, Douglas, was claiming incapacity benefit from October 2020.

However, the Department of Health and Social Care became aware that he was also receiving an income from self-employed work he was doing.

Johnston also received Manx Earnings Replacement Allowance over a five-month period while he was doing work.

Bank statements were obtained which showed payments being received in relation to work for three companies.

This had resulted in Johnston being overpaid an amount of £14,257 in benefits.

When questioned by DHSC staff, he said: ‘I’ve no excuses. I’ll do everything I can to pay it back.’

Defence advocate Peter Taylor said that his client had suffered a serious health issue and also a tragic family bereavement which had affected his mental health.

Mr Taylor said that lockdown had then started and Johnston had been getting in financial difficulties.

He said that he had only started working a few days ‘here and there’ but accepted he should have declared this.

The advocate handed letters from Johnston’s mother and Johnston himself.

‘The letters show the depth of his remorse,’ said Mr Taylor.

‘He declared the money on his tax form which prompted the matter to come before the department, so he wasn’t working cash in hand.

‘His mental health was not being addressed due to pressures on the health service.

‘He is hoping to get into more regular employment. If he is in prison, he will likely lose his accommodation and it will set him back in his mental health.

‘A short custodial sentence wouldn’t really benefit him or the community.’

The advocate said that Johnston had been offence-free for 11 years before this.

A probation report recommended supervision as the most appropriate sentence.

Magistrates chair David Christian told Johnston: ‘Quite clearly this was a dishonest act that was undertaken.

‘Once you’d started work it was your responsibility to inform the department.’

No order for prosecution costs was made.