Thursday, December 01, 2011

Another benefits cheat

A drummer in a marching band who claimed he could walk no more than 15 yards and couldn’t even tie his own shoelaces has been exposed as a benefits cheat, after investigators secretly filmed him marching through the streets. Alexander Clarkson was caught marching through Great Harwood in Lancashire in full Scottish pipe band regalia and kilt. At the same time, the 63-year-old was receiving thousands of pounds every year by claiming he could walk only short distances and was always falling over because of his disabilities.

Clarkson, from Blackpool Lancs, admitted cheating the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) out of £17,329 over a six-year period by failing to tell them his disabilities had improved. District judge Jeff Brailsford at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court handed Clarkson a 56-day jail term, suspended for a year. He was told the former soldier turned bricklayer had not worked for 33 years.

Prosecutor Michael Woosnam told how Clarkson lived a double life. On one hand he said he needed crutches to get about and could not travel anywhere alone. As well as a disabled living allowance Clarkson also claimed carer's allowance because he needed help cooking meals. But at the same time he was a dedicated member of the City of Preston Scottish Pipe and Drum band and a member of the Blackpool Male Voice Choir. The court heard that the DWP were tipped off about Clarksons's cheating and sent a surveillance team to follow him. They filmed him at a Remembrance Day ceremony in the Lancashire town of Great Harwood where he was lead drummer marching the streets for 30 minutes. When he was confronted about his actions Clarkson said that he had been mistaken for someone else who had borrowed his car for the day.

The following day he was followed walking to a funeral and then attending the wake that followed. Mr Woosnam said: ‘In interview Clarkson said he had continued to claim benefits because he quite simply did not want to lose the money. He also said he had applied to have the carer's element of his claim upgraded.’

Peter Manning, defending, said that Clarkson did have arthritic knees, asthma and diabetes and had recently had an operation on his groin. ‘My client accepts he should have informed the department about his improved mobility.’ Sentencing Clarkson, the judge said: ‘It is clear from the film I have seen, you got pleasure from being in the band. You clearly marched and bent down to pick up your drum. There seemed to be no hindrance to your mobility. ‘And when you were questioned about it you denied it was you. ‘You have been living a comfortable lifestyle as a result of your benefits allowing you to pay £100 a month TV subscriptions and £80 a month on drink and £120 a month on travel.’

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