Burnley £35,000 benefits cheat was drinking 15 pints a night

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A “BRASS-NECKED” benefits cheat who got £35,000 of taxpayers’ cash while he was working, blew much of it on booze, a court was told.

Alcoholic David Rickwood, a 49-year-old father of four, had his regular 12 to 15 pints a session funded by the state and was an “all day drinker” Burnley Crown Court heard.

Rickwood, who had been working as a self-employed engineering contractor during the five-year scam, was spared jail. But, the defendant, now said to be a “sick man” will not be able to pop out to his local at night, after a judge gave him a six month, 7pm to 6am curfew.

The defendant, of Villiers Street, Burnley, had admitted four counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change of circumstances to the Department for Work and Pensions and Burnley Council. The curfew is part of a 12-month supervision order.

Sarah Griffin, prosecuting for the DWP, said Rickwood’s claim was legitimate at the start, but he failed to notify the authorities he was working.

He claimed income support, council tax and housing benefits and was overpaid £35,000 over five years and three months. The defendant had been receiving about £141 a week, to which he was not entitled.

Tim Brennand, for Rickwood, said his employment was sporadic. In his 30s, the defendant had adopted a “work hard, play hard,” mentality, developed a significant drink problem and has been drinking 12 to 15 pints a night.

Rickwood did not give attention to detail in financial affairs and, with the drink problem, it was a recipe for disaster. His life was “confused and haphazard” and he now had health problems, some of them caused by his drinking and he was on medication.

Mr Brennand said the defendant, who had no previous relevant convictions, was contrite. He continued: ”He has not had a drink for seven days and that is the longest he has gone without a drink for the past 15 years. He is suffering withdrawal symptoms. The defendant is simply not a well man at all.”

The barrister said it cost £55,000 a year to keep an offender behind bars and added: “The taxpayer and community have been put to expense enough on this defendant.” He urged the judge to impose a curfew, so Rickwood “could not pop out to the pub in the evenings.”

Sentencing, Recorder Terence Rigby told the defendant: “You had the brass neck to keep filling in forms, knowing full well you were working for at least part of the time.”

He told the Rickwood the curfew would run every day and added: ”That will put some curtailment on your enjoyment, but not quite as much as going to prison.”