18 Aug 2022

Father avoids jail for collecting feud fearing son's social welfare

Father avoids jail for collecting feud fearing son's social welfare

A man who collected disability benefit for his son who couldn't leave the house due to a criminal feud continued to claim it for about a year after his son left the country, a court has heard.

On Friday, David McConnell was given a two year suspended sentence for claiming disability benefit for his son, Thomas 'Nicky' McConnell, after his son left the jurisdiction.

McConnell dishonestly claimed the disability benefit for about a year, defrauding the state of just over €8,700, Garda Cathal Connolly told the court.

David McConnell, 76, with an address at Silloge Gardens, Ballymun, pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly inducing the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to issue a weekly disability payment of €203 at Ballymun post office on dates between April 10, 2019 and January 8, 2020.

He has 11 previous convictions dating from 1962 to 1989, including larceny and burglary, the court heard.

Gda Connolly told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that David McConnell attended his GP on behalf of his son to get him signed off for disability benefit. The court heard Thomas McConnell “couldn't come out of the house because he was involved in an enterprise that put him in danger”.

“He couldn't leave the house because of a feud,” Gda Connolly said. As a result of this, Thomas McConnell was deemed to have a psychological condition and a “fear of other persons”, the court heard.

Rebecca Smith BL, defending, said her client believed he was entitled to keep collecting the money after his son left the jurisdiction. She said he gave the money to his son's partner to help care for his grand-daughter.

The court heard McConnell's wife of 44 years left him around the time he was charged with these offences and he had to leave the family home. He was effectively homeless for a year until he found accommodation.

Sentencing McConnell, Judge Martin Nolan said McConnell had been collecting the money for his son who “had some sort of mental condition which wouldn't let him leave the house”.

“It seems one day he (the son) did leave the house,” the judge said. “And this man continued to get money for about a year.”

The judge accepted that McConnell had taken the money to support his grand-daughter and was unlikely to reoffend. He said he did not think it would be right to jail a 76-year-old man in this instance.

“The life expectancy of a male is 81. Everybody can do the maths,” the judge said.

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