Video surveillance catches £11,000 benefits cheat

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.

A benefits cheat who claimed more than £11,000 in disability handouts after claiming she could hardly walk was filmed going on regular shopping trips, a court heard.

Ann Hargreaves, 63, who has arthritis, told the Department for Work and Pensions she could only walk two yards at a slow pace before she started getting severe discomfort, went slowly all the time with a stick and had trouble going up and down stairs.

Hargreaves said she experienced mobility difficulties every day.

But, Burnley magistrates were told, DWP investigators carried out surveillance for a month and took footage of her catching buses into town, walking more than 1,000 metres and using steps without any difficulty.

When questioned by officials over the fraud, Hargreaves admitted she knew she should contact the DWP if her mobility improved and was aware her benefits would probably be reduced or she wouldn’t get any at all. She put the improvement down to an increase in her painkillers.

The defendant, of Pheasantford Green, Burnley, admitted dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances to the DWP, between July 13th, 2011, and June 23rd, 2015.

Hargreaves, who was of previous good character, was given a 10 week curfew, lasting until July 18th, between 8pm and 7am, seven days a week and must pay £85 costs.

The chairman told her: “We feel the seriousness was the length of time and the mitigating factors were remorse and you have no previous convictions.”

As she left court, Hargreaves, who is on pension credit, told the bench: “Thank you very much and sorry for everything.”

Prosecutor Tracy Yates told the hearing Hargreaves claimed disability living allowance at the higher rate of mobility component, to which she was not entitled, between July 2011 and June 2015 and was overpaid £11,271.15.

She had been in receipt of higher rate DLA for a number of years, on the grounds that she was “virtually unable to walk” because of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, which she had in her feet, hands and back.

Mark Williams (defending) said: “She has never been in trouble in her life. She has pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and made full admissions during the course of her interview.”

The solicitor said she claimed DLA legitimately from the early 2000s because of her arthritis and, if anything, her condition had deteriorated since that time.

Mr Williams added Hargreaves was repaying the money to the benefits agency at £22 a week.