A DUBLINER who continued to claim his father's pension years after the elderly man died has avoided jail.
The theft was discovered when government inspectors called to the late John Wilds' house in 2008 to see how he wished to receive his presidential bonus ahead of what would have been his 100th birthday.
They discovered that Mr Wilds had actually died 11 years earlier, aged in his late 80s.
Yesterday his son, Richard Wilds (69), pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to samples of 41 counts of theft on dates between October 1 2007 and November 8 2008.
Wilds, of Fortlawn Park, Clonsilla, admitted to gardai that he had been collecting his father's pension for 11 years since his death.
The total sum of money amassed during this period amounted to €10,196.
The court heard that because An Post does not retain social welfare records for longer than 15 months, the Director of Public Prosecution could only press charges for a sample period.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring gave Wilds a two-and-a-half year sentence, but suspended it in full.
She noted that a year after his father's death, Wilds had voluntarily stopped taking Jobseeker's Allowance.
"He wasn't collecting on the double," she said, but added that his theft caused others in need of social welfare to suffer.
Garda James Buckley told Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, that Wilds had been authorised to collect a weekly pension on his father's behalf because Mr Wilds senior had been sick.
Wilds told gardai he believed he was entitled to continue collecting the pension for three months after his father's death.
When he discovered this was not the case, Wilds knew he was in trouble, so he continued to do it.
The court heard that the defendant, who has a long-term partner of 40 years and two adult children, offered to pay €2,500 to the Department of Social Protection.
Garda Buckley agreed that Wilds lived in a local authority house with no evidence of a lavish lifestyle or any kind of excessive spending.