4 Oct 2016

Disabled man couldn't work but could do gardening

A benefit cheat who claimed thousands of pounds in disability allowance after saying he could not walk has been caught out after a neighbour filmed him using heavy machinery in his garden.

Christopher Botting had claimed he could walk only 10 metres “on a good day”, had “no way of bending” and could not “lift anything”.

But the passionate gardener was exposed after a neighbour recorded more than eight hours of footage showing him toiling in his garden.

The recordings included footage showing the 52-year-old dad-of-two using a heavy rotator to churn up soil.

Over almost two years, the “brazen” fraudster claimed almost £15,000 in disability benefit allowance, which he will now have to repay.

Botting had told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP): “I now accept that a wheelchair is my only option if I want to get out. I cannot get up as I have no strength in my right arm and have no way of bending to help myself. I cannot lift anything as my hand-shakes and I drop things. I cannot raise my arms above my head.”

At Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, Botting was jailed for ten months after the judge described his actions as “an affront to society”.

Prosecutor James Ross said there was no issue with Botting receiving the allowance prior to 2010, but as a result of the false information he gave to the DWP he was awarded a high rate of allowance.

Mr Ross said: “The prosecution say when he filled in those documents in 2010 his condition was not as severe as he said. As a result he was treated by the benefits system as someone who had a high degree of need and entitled to a considerable amount of money when, in fact, that was not the case.”

Botting’s neighbour Paul Wilson was aware he was claiming disability benefit while toiling for long hours in the garden.

Mr Ross said: “He would see Mr Botting in his garden quite frequently. He was aware he was claiming disability living allowance. Not only would he watch him and make a mental note and have his own opinion of how incapable Mr Botting was, he also had a camcorder. Eight or nine hours-worth of footage was recorded by him.”

Botting, who has spina bifida and Crohn’s disease, sat in his wheelchair in the well of the court and was assigned two “lip speakers” to relay the evidence to him because of his deafness. He denied dishonest representation for obtaining benefit, but was found guilty.

Archie Mackay, defending, submitted Botting, from Sheerness, Kent, would have extreme difficulty in prison because of his deafness.

He said: “It would bring claustrophobia. He wouldn’t be able to hear steps coming towards his door or keys jangling.”

The benefit fraud will have £76 a fortnight deducted from his benefits to repay the amount he defrauded – of which £10,466 is currently outstanding.

Recorder Matthew Nicklin QC said: “It is so compelling and clear that is the sort of footage that one expects to see on television programmes about benefit fraud. Mr Wilson was exasperated at the inaction he saw on the part of DWP to investigate Mr Botting. In his evidence, he said he was told that if it wasn’t on film the DWP were not interested in investigating. Whether it is true or not that the DWP takes this attitude, it was the catalyst for the remarkable and extensive cataloguing of Mr Botting’s industrious garden improvements.”

Source with pictures

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