A MAN who continued to draw his late mother’s pension payments long after her death has received a suspended prison sentence.

Lee John Harker gained £18,000 to which he was not entitled, by drawing the payments using his mother’s bank card at cash machines for 17 months after her death, in July, 2017.

Durham Crown Court, sitting at Newcastle, was told there was no record of him declaring her death to the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and, so, Employment Support Allowance continued to be paid into her account for another year, and Personal Independence Payments, until December 2018.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said he was arrested in January last year and made admissions, explaining that at the time he was unemployed and in debt.

Mr Dryden said Harker claimed he did tell the DWP his mother was deceased, but there was no record of him doing so.

But he accepted that as the money continued to be paid, he failed to notify the DWP.

Harker, 38, then of Woodland View, West Rainton, admitted two counts of fraud and one of possessing an article for use in fraud.

Helen Towers, in mitigation, said Harker remained out of trouble for 15 years up to 2015, but after a relationship break-up, led a “chaotic life” and began taking drugs, mixing with, “the wrong crowd”.

Harker moved back in with his mother and regretted she saw him on his “downward spiral”, but not after he began to recover.

Miss Towers said Harker did take steps to report the death, including ending her tenancy, but conceded he had not done enough and then, “buried his head in the sand”.

“He admits he did it wrong and he almost felt a sense of relief when the knock on the door came that he was waiting for.”

She added that Harker, now of Eldon Terrace, Shildon, has taken up the tenancy at that address and has a job offer as a pipe layer.

The court heard that since the pension fraud offence took place Harker has served a ten-month prison sentence for burglary and theft imposed last May

Judge James Adkin said sending him back to prison could prove “counter-productive” and passed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a four-month electronically-monitored 7pm to 5am home curfew and a £140 court surcharge.