A MAN from St Albans was given a community service penalty after pleading guilty to benefit fraud at St Albans Magistrates Court on Monday.

John Freeman, 64, of Taylor Close, appeared in court charged with three offences of fraudulantly obtaining social security benefit, worth a total of £739.68.

The court heard how on between April 24 and July 14 last year he made false representations to the post office in order to receive social security benefit, to which he wasn't entitled, as he was working part-time for a cleaning company.

Presenting the case for the prosecution Sean Smith, described how Freeman had been claiming benefit since August 14, 1997. He added that when Freeman began working he said nothing about the change to his circumstances.

Solicitor for the defence Mr Bruce Kent, said Freeman had needed the extra money to replace a bed at his home.

He said: "He didn't want to take on any hire purchase commitments and it was this that led him to work.

"The defendant stopped working because he was unwell and he wasn't interviewed until the beginning of this year, when he made full admission and arrangements were made for him to make repayments.

"The fact is he is unable to work again and will continue receiving benefit."

The magistrates gave Freeman a community punishment order of 50 hours.

Claiming they had taken his guilty plea into consideration, they said he must carry out his penalty within the next 12 months. He was also ordered to pay £75 costs at £5 a week.