A BENEFITS cheat who fraudulently claimed almost £55,000 has been ordered to repay £1,001.

Peter Clinch, of The Doves, Weymouth, was ordered to repay £1,001 at Dorchester Crown Court after previously admitting nine fraud charges.

Krystal Whyment, prosecuting, told the court that the 69-year-old had a number of charges for overpayments.

She said the total benefit figure for the charges had been calculated at £54,981.03, which Clinch fraudulently claimed in a mixture of housing benefits and council tax.

Ms Whyment said: “So far he has repaid £10,988.78 with regular weekly and monthly repayments to Eastborne Borough Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council has been paid off in full but there is £43,992.25 left.”

In mitigation Timothy Shorter said: “Clinch no longer has the total amount, he is an elderly man, he’s disabled and he lives in a rural area.

“£1,000 is going to stretch him but he accepts it is a part of the criminality.

“It doesn’t seem a lot to some people but to Clinch it’s a sizable amount.

“His regular payments show a responsible attitude having got himself into trouble.”

Judge Roger Jarvis told Clinch: “Those monies of £1,001 are to be paid ... within six months, in default there will be a prison sentence of 28 days.”

On April 21 last year Clinch pleaded guilty to seven counts of making a false statement to claim benefits and two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances. He was sentenced to 40 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and a community order including a curfew and unpaid work after he admitted nine fraud charges.