A BUILDER who owned two homes in Pembrokeshire fraudulently claimed more than £16,000 in benefits after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gordon Hardy, 56, of Dew Street in Haverfordwest, submitted a universal credit claim on March 27, 2020 – days after lockdown measures were introduced.

Hardy declared that he was a single man with one dependant child, who had no income and no capital to declare, prosecutor Alycia Carpanini said.

He did not declare that he owned two homes – one on Brookside Avenue and one on Haven Road.

The Haven Road property was “in poor condition” and is empty, he later told officers, while he was letting a friend stay rent-free at the Brookside Avenue property, Ms Carpanini said.

As a result of the lockdown and the increased demand for support, checks on claims had become “less stringent”, Ms Carpanini said. Hardy had a phone appointment, but no discrepancies were found.

Between March 27, 2020 and May 26, 2022, Hardy claimed £16,667.29 in universal credit.

When interviewed by the police on July 1 last year, Hardy said he had applied for universal credit as he was a self-employed builder and “he had no work due to the pandemic”.

He told officers he didn’t know that he needed to declare the properties as part of his application.

“He is very very remorseful for the actions he carried out during the lockdown period,” said Mr Thomas, defending.

“During that period lots of people genuinely needed benefits. Also lots of people did things during that time that they wouldn’t have dreamt of.”

Mr Thomas said that Hardy, who has no previous convictions, had paid the full sum back.

Sentencing Hardy, Recorder Simon Mills said: “As lockdown began, you made an entirely fraudulent claim for state benefits.

“You’ve made excuses at different times, tried to say you didn’t know the rules. Complete nonsense. Everybody knows the rules in reality, certainly these basic ones.

“I’ve read one of your references saying it was a lapse in judgement. Well it was a very long one. This went on for two years.

“You had not one, but two houses. This is a serious matter.”

The court heard one of Hardy’s character references said he was part of a tennis club.

“Parts of your lifestyle are completely beyond the reach of people that genuinely needed help at that time,” Recorder Mills told Hardy.

“Money that is given to people in need by the state should go to people in genuine need.”

Hardy was sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for a year. He must also complete 180 hours of unpaid work.