Fraudulent Pension Claim at Carmarthen

At the Shire Hall, Carmarthen, on Saturday, March 19, before Mr J Ll Thomas, Gilfach; Mr L A L Evans, Pantycendy; and Mr H Jones Davies, Glyneiddan. Sarah Lewis, widow, of Gosport Farm, Llangunnor was summoned for making a false declaration with regard to an old age pension.

Mr H Brunel White appeared for defendant, who elected to be dealt with summarily.

Mr Fitzroy, Somerset House, prosecuted, and having read the section of the Act dealing with the offence, said the defendant was liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of six months' hard labour, or the Court had power to inflict a penalty not exceeding £25 in lieu of imprisonment.

This was the first case brought before the Carmarthen bench, and therefore he was only going to ask, them to impose a small fine, just so that people might know what the consequences are if they apply for pensions when they are not entitled to them.

On the 21st September this old lady, 76 years of age, living at Gosport, Llangunnor, put in a claim for an old age pension. She went to Mr Saer, the clerk of the Borough local pension committee, and made a claim. He read over to her the warning of the penalty for false representation and asked her two questions on the form. She gave him answers and he wrote them down. How much have you coming in weekly in money?" She answered "Nothing." What are your other means of subsistence?" "Kept by daughter."

The other day Mr O'Sullivan went down to see her, and during the first part of the interview one of her daughters was present. He had her claim with him, and he proceeded to ask her questions on the statutory form as to her means. In reply to his questions she said she had no means and no land. Her daughter who was present said "That is not right, mother," and added her mother was entitled to the Gosport land where they lived. The mother said she did own that land but it was heavily mortgaged - £500 at 3 1/2 per cent. Mr O'Sullivan asked if she owned any land, and she said no. Her daughter, then left the room.

Mr O'Sullivan drew her attention to the statement on the claim that she was kept by her daughters, and asked her whether her daughters were entitled to any money? He noticed the house was very comfortable, and questioned her very particularly whether she did own any land or had any money coming in, and she distinctly said on several occasions she had nothing.

As a matter of fact, under the will of her late husband, Mr William Lewis, which was proved on the 21st December, 1909, Mrs Lewis had a life interest in five pieces of land and houses which brought in roughly, after deducting the mortgage, over £80 a year.

Mr White pleaded guilty on behalf of defendant, and said he didn't contest anything Mr Fitzroy had stated, and he thanked him for the manner in which he had asked the magistrates to deal with the case that was to say as this was the first case in Carmarthen, to inflict but a small penalty. The defendant was a lady of between 77 and 78 years of age. He did not say she was not as sharp as a lady of her age would be, but they would not expect her to have all her faculties.

Mr O'Sullivan spoke to her in English, and during the time her daughter was there the daughter interrupted her mother by saying she was wrong. He submitted the old lady had no intention to defraud. She had been speaking to an old lady friend who had a pension, and who said to her "As you have only got a life interest in the property you are entitled to a pension," and she went to Mr Saer and fancied she would get the 5s. from him at his office at the moment.

There was no intention to defraud when she said she had no property. It was true that under the will of the late Mr Lewis, of Grongar, she had a life interest but she thought it was not her property as she couldn't will it or give it away. That was the reason why she said she was supported by her daughters because after her death, he presumed, the daughters were entitled to the money. The mere fact of her going to ask for the 5s. and expecting to get it straight away showed she did not understand the matter.

She must have been very ignorant by the manner in which she set about it. He submitted she didn't willingly state what she knew to be untrue. The fact was that her son, who is a clergyman at Stratford-on-Avon, returned income tax for her every year, but the money was paid through the daughters for her maintenance, and never reached her own personal pocket. The son took the interest, paid the money to the daughters, and they supported their mother.

The magistrates could send her to prison for six months, or fine her £25, but there was, he thought, a more lenient view they could take. Her age, character, antecedents and inability to grasp the situation in which she was in would justify them in binding her over, or dismissing the case, making her pay the costs of the prosecution. It was a serious thing for the members of the family for her to be brought there on a charge of fraudulent misrepresentation, when the old lady was comfortably off. The costs were no doubt heavy, and he would ask the magistrates to deal with her under the First Offenders' Act.

The magistrates decided to impose a fine of £2 and £2 1s. 1d. costs

Source - The Welshman Friday March 25, 1910.

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