31/08/2011

4NI Wins Fraudsters' Identity Battle

Those found guilty of benefit fraud are now being routinely named - and shamed - on the Department for Social Development's (DSD) website.

An effective U-turn by DSD follows a campaign by the news website, 4NI.co.uk, that encompassed two successive Executive Ministers.

The rules have now changed after the DUP Minister Nelson McCausland looked again at his Department's standing policy not to divulge the names and addresses of those found to have defrauded Social Services.

Until a few days ago, DSD's public relations section only distributed details of the guilty to local newspapers and others who have asked for the information - but featured only generalities such as 'a Belfast woman was found guilty of fraud….' on the website, without identifying them by name.

Now, after direct contact with the DUP Executive Minister, the Department's policy on naming those who have been found guilty of benefit fraud has changed.

A spokesperson for DSD said: "Publishing the names of those convicted of benefit fraud has been raised a number of times.

"Minister McCausland asked for background information and after reviewing this, agreed that names should be published on the Departmental website for one month [and then routinely removed].

"This is intended to act as a deterrent to others and help reduce benefit fraud," the spokesperson said.

The contentious policy was first highlighted in February when 4NI.co.uk was told by officials that the previous Social Services Minister, the SDLP's Alex Attwood, was to "consider this matter further" - and nothing happened.

Now, the bizarre rule that prevented DSD from naming those guilty of defrauding the same department - has changed.
News Image
The full details are now being published both to local and regional media AND on the official website news feature.

Among the latest to be prosecuted - but now named on the official website for the first time - are two people convicted at Londonderry Magistrates' Court for claiming benefits they were not entitled to.

Danielle McLaughlin, 28, of Good Shepherd Glen, Londonderry was given 100 hours community service and ordered to pay court costs of £30 for failing to declare employment while claiming Job Seekers Allowance totalling £2,017.

Nora McDonagh, 40, of Carnhill, Londonderry was given four months imprisonment suspended for three years and ordered to pay court costs of £37 for failing to declare capital while claiming Income Support totalling £12,333.

Previously, a DSD statement had admitted: "The personal details of individuals convicted of benefit fraud are not put on the website, [but] details are issued to the local media by way of press releases."

That has now changed with Flagship Media Group Editor, Brian McCalden commenting: "The discovery that DSD failed to name those guilty of defrauding them - on their own website - seemed to fly in the face of reason.

"The matter was first raised in February with a promise that the Minister - then Alex Attwood - would re-examine the matter, but nothing happened, but it has taken the new DSD Minister, Nelson McCausland just a few weeks to act once he was made aware of the bizarre anomaly.

"Just last week, the DSD website changed tack and has begun to name - and shame - the guilty. "Justice, it seems has been done," said the senior journalist."

See: Convicted Benefit Fraudsters 'Still Unnamed'

(BMcC)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

13 February 2020
Man Jailed For Killing Dog With Hammer After Collision
A man who admitted to killing a dog with a hammer has been jailed. John Boyle, formerly of Ardilea Court in north Belfast, caused unnecessary suffering to a Staffordshire bull terrier after it was knocked down in November 2017. Following the collision, Mr Boyle killed the dog with a hammer before placing it in a wheelie bin.
10 February 2020
Co Down Couple Convicted Of Child Sex Offences
A Co Down couple convicted of a range of child sexual offences have been given a combined sentence of 24 years. Gary Talbot, aged 60 from Newcastle was sentenced to 15 years after he plead guilty to a string offences including rape of a child and gross indecency, as well as making and distributing indecent images of a child.
10 January 2006
Weekend road victim named
Police have released the name of a 44-year old man who was killed in a road traffic incident at the weekend. Jim Donaghy, from the Donegal Road area of South Belfast, died after the motorbike he was driving was in collision with a car on Sunday afternoon. The incident happened at around 2.30pm in the Temple area of Carryduff.
29 September 2016
Man Charged With Murder After Body Found In Lisburn
A man has been charged with murder after a body was found in a car in Lisburn on Monday, 26 September. The body of a man, named locally as Gerry Mulligan, was discovered in the Limehurst Way area. The suspect is expected to appear at Lisburn Magistrates' Court on Thursday, 29 September.
04 February 2020
Teen Killed On Co Down Road Named
A teenager killed in a road collision in Co Down on Sunday has been named as Deaglan Moran. The 14 year-old died following a crash on the Flying Horse Road in Downpatrick. He had been travelling as a pedestrian at the time. Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward. Anyone who was in the area at around 6.