Pensions adviser faces fraud charge

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A DEPARTMENT for Work and Pensions adviser got a £4,000 motobility car after claiming he could barely walk, but was repeatedly secretly filmed out shopping, a court heard.

Richard Marsden used the Ford Focus, which didn’t need him to tax or insurance it, to go to supermarkets and into Burnley town centre, sometimes parking in disabled spaces and sometimes not.

Marsden, who had got disability living allowance in 2009 because of drop foot from a road smash in 1993, told the DWP he used a walking stick, suffered intense pain with each step, couldn’t go a metre without feeling severe discomfort and was housebound on bad days.

But, Burnley Crown Court was told, between July and September, 2010, a DWP fraud investigator filmed him walking unaided and alone from supermarket car parks into the stores, and from spaces up to 100 yards from the entrance. He was then videoed carrying baskets of shopping, or trays of food in the cafe, and walking back to his car with bags of groceries and clothes, without any signs of discomfort.

The defendant, who works at Burnley Pensions Centre, Simonstone, had claimed he lived in a first floor room at his home in Barrowford to avoid going up and down stairs, yet was captured on a trip to Burnley Market, where he went up an escalator and then came down three flights of steps - 37 in all, at normal speed, the hearing was told.

Marsden (41), of Nora Street, denies making a false representation to obtain benefits, and dishonestly furnishing false information and an alternative allegation of failing to give a prompt notification of a change in circumstances. The prosecution, who played film footage to the court, accept he had a genuine medical condition, but allege he exaggerated it.

Mrs Sharon Brock, a DWP fraud investigator, told the jury Marsden applied for disability living allowance, which is not means tested, and filled in a claims form saying he had drop foot on his right leg and nerve damage and was on painkillers and other medication. He said the pain was intense and he had had difficulty walking all the time, with each and every step causing pain as he was walking on the bone of his right foot.

The hearing was told Marsden, who was to claim his condition deteriorated in December, 2008, alleged on really bad days he couldn’t get out of bed and was housebound. After information supplied by the defendant and medical reports, he was granted disability living allowance, with the high rate mobility component and lowest rate care component. The care part of the benefit was paid into a claimant’s bank every four weeks, but the mobility part could be paid out or taken as a motobility car and Marsden got the black Ford Focus, worth more than £4,000.

Mrs Brock said she carried out covert surveillance between July and September, 2010 and filmed Marsden several times. She tailed him round Burnley Asda, where he shopped and ate in the cafe. On July 16th, he stood several minutes waiting to use a cash machine and then walked 70 yards back to his vehicle without stopping. She then followed him to a retail park, where he parked using his disabled badge, later got back in his vehicle and then drove to work. Two weeks later, he was seen at Asda again, where he was spotted walking an estimated 100 yards or more, at a normal, steady pace.

Mrs Brock said on one occasion, she filmed Marsden parking in a disabled space outside PC World in Burnley and returning to his car carrying a large item in his right hand, which he put in the boot. She told the jury she followed the defendant on other occasions as he went shopping and at all times he was alone and unaided.

She continued: “He walked at a normal speed and did not show any visible signs he was in discomfort.” Mrs Brock added the defendant, sometimes had an odd gait and appeared to be swinging his right foot out.

(Proceeding)