A benefits cheat who was caught bowling despite insisting that he could barely walk has been spared jail because he is now suffering from lung cancer.
John Larder was filmed by undercover investigators playing sport, mowing the lawn and shopping at the same time as claiming £19,000 in disability allowance.
A judge told him that his 'blatant fraud' had earned him a jail sentence - but added that the punishment would be suspended because Larder, 63, is gravely ill.
The fraudster, from Huncoat in Lancashire, claimed a total of £18,646 from the State over seven years, saying he could walk just eight yards and could not get out of bed or eat his meals unaided.
Last year officials became suspicious and started investigating him - discovering that not only was he much more healthy than he claimed, but he was also working as a part-time greenkeeper at an Accrington bowling club. Burnley Crown Court heard that he could be seen 'walking backwards and forwards across the green for the duration of the matches which lasted 45 minutes to an hour'.
He pleaded guilty in August to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to disability living allowance.
Now in November he has been handed a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after Judge Beverley Lunt concluded that he was too ill to be jailed.
Robert Elias, defending, said Larder was 'extremely ill' after contracting cancer and having part of a lung removed.
The judge told him: '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. There are people who need mobility aids, cars and all of that because they cannot walk. 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. 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 society's interest to send you to custody today.'
Mr Elias said: '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.'
The court heard that Larder is repaying the taxpayer for the money he stole, but can only do so by relying on benefits!
Source with pictures