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16 Sep 2015

Tip-off revealed benefits fraud

A man must wear an electronic tag for three months as part of his punishment for a "deliberate" benefit fraud.

Jonathan Entwistle, 49, received thousands of pounds on the basis that he was unfit to work. This was paid both by the DWP and South Lakeland District Council. However, it emerged that between August 2012 and January 2013 Entwistle was employed overseas as a hostel manager in Jerusalem.

Entwistle, from Grange-over-Sands, admitted two charges of failing to notify authorities of a change in his personal circumstances. He had fraudulently claimed £4,567.

Judge Paul Batty QC imposed a 12-month community order. Entwistle must complete 150 hours of unpaid work and observe a three-month, electronically monitored night time curfew.

Tim Evans, prosecuting, said Entwistle's benefits had originally been stopped by the DWP. Entwistle lodged an appeal "on the way to the airport", Israel-bound, which was successful. His benefits were restarted and paid while he was working at the Jerusalem hostel for the Israel Trust of the Anglican Church.

Entwistle said he did not know his appeal was upheld, and claimed he had no access to the bank account into which he benefits were paid. But while in Israel, Entwistle was found to have drawn money from this account. "Who did he think was filling up this account if not the DWP?" asked Mr. Evans. "He did not end the claim. His claim came to an end when a member of the public telephoned the benefit fraud line to indicate, rightly, that there was a false claim going on."

Little mitigation was offered by Brendan Burke, defending, after Judge Batty indicated he was minded to following the recommendation in a pre-sentence report. The judge told Entwistle: "This was a deliberate fraud on your part. It was public monies. The explanation that you gave for it was risible."

The court heard that Entwistle, a man of previous good character, had entered guilty pleas to the two offences in mid-August during an appearance before Judge Barbara Forester. He was said to have then sent a letter to her home of address, prompting a change of judge for the sentencing hearing. Judge Batty said. "Judges do not look at letters sent to their home addresses. This must never happen again."

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