Northern Ireland

Tom Elliott MP to raise benefits cheat case with lord chief justice

Tom Elliott
Image caption Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Tom Elliott said he wrote to the judge to "let him know this was not a character reference, in case there was any doubt about it"

The Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott is to contact the lord chief justice over how comments he had made about a benefits cheat were used in court.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP said he provided a statement about a man who was convicted of benefit fraud.

However, the politician insisted he did not make a character reference.

Clive Miller, a former soldier from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, claimed housing benefit while he owned properties in Spain.

He got income support despite having more than £280,000 in his bank accounts and was overpaid almost £40,000 in benefits between 2002 and 2010.

Miller was was given a suspended jail sentence at Dungannon Crown Court on Monday.

Image caption A judge said Clive Miller had "brought disgrace upon himself" by claiming benefits he was not entitled to

The court heard that his legal team had a reference from "an esteemed source" which spoke "glowingly of his work in the voluntary sector".

Mr Elliott said he is not sure if he is the esteemed source referred too.

However, he said he did provide a statement about Mr Miller but insisted it was not a character reference.

He told the BBC: "I confirmed that I knew him. That is what I was asked. I knew him in the context of him coming to me with constituency issues."

The MP also declared: "I did take the step of writing to the judge to let him know this was not a character reference, in case there was any doubt about it "

Mr Elliott now intends to take the matter further, saying: "Obviously I will be taking it forward with the lord chief justice."

He added: "I would have concerns if that simple acknowledgment or answering the question that I confirmed I knew the person is taken as a reference ".

Miller, of Coleshill Crescent, admitted four charges of failing to declare a change of circumstances to the Social Security Agency.

Two charges of money laundering were left on the books.

The judge sentenced 47-year-old Miller, to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.

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