A benefit cheat who was rumbled playing bowls and being a greenkeeper after claiming he was unable to walk has avoided jail because of ‘severe’ health problems.
John Larder, of Burnley Road, Huncoat, received £18,646 in disability living allowance over a five-year period from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after claiming he could could only walk eight yards and needed help getting dressed, bathing and ‘cutting up his meat’.
The Observer reported in August how a surveillance operation caught the 63-year-old playing bowls at Burnley Road Bowling Club in Accrington and also ‘pushing a trolley’ at Aldi.
Larder pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to disability living allowance and was given a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
Mark Lamberty, prosecuting, said Larder had originally applied for benefits in 2007 ‘on the basis of limited walking ability and limited mobility’.
However he was observed moving around on 14 occasions over a two-month period last year.
Robert Elias, defending, said the money will be recovered from his future benefits and Larer is now ‘extremely ill’.
He told the court: “He has got cancer of the lung. He has had half of one of his lungs removed and they have now found a significant module in his other lung.
“He has had damage to his larynx because of his operation. His medical condition is therefore serious. The arthritis and rheumatoid conditions which caused the claim for disability seems to be under control.
“The problems regarding his culpability is that he was five years ago almost bed-bound when he made the initial complaint. He has responded to skilful professional treatment and he has some ability, hence his part-time job.
“He continued to claim and should’ve told the authorities his condition had improved.
“He has brought about shame and publicity and feelings of guilt and social inadequacy.
“He is a decent working man who has worked all his life with no convictions who has now had to endure his naming in the newspapers and pilloried
“There are cases where mercy is appropriate and this is one of those cases.”
A proceeds of crime hearing has also been set for March 4 next year.
Judge Beverley Lunt said it was an ‘absolutely blatant fraud’.
Sentencing, she said: “To be claiming money and know you’re claiming money because you say you can’t walk and you are pushing lawn mowers around crown bowling greens, I’m sorry but that’s just blatant.
“The tax payers have lost all this money and they are still giving him tax payers money for him to live on. The tax payer should not have to repay the tax payer.
“Your fraud was quite blatant. There are people who need mobility aids, cars and all of that paying because they cannot walk. They need the money and you don’t see them mowing lawns and being a paid greenkeepers and playing bowls.
“How you thought you would not be discovered is astonishing. It’s absolutely blatant.
“You are still in receipt of benefits and you are now in serious ill-health but not for what you were claiming then.
“For such a blatant fraud I would’ve sent you immediately to prison, however you are now suffering from lung cancer, you are undergoing severe treatment, therefore it would not be in yours or societies interest to send you to custody today.”