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29 Jun 2017

How nice: benefit cheat is still on benefits

A benefits cheat from Derby who said she "was virtually unable to walk" was caught out - when it was discovered she was a drummer in a marching band.

Rhona Vessey told the Department of Work and Pensions she "could only walk 20 metres without getting out of breath" and "felt anxious if people looked at her" when she was out.

The 50-year-old, of Little Eaton, also said she often "could not carry a shopping bag" because of her physical impairments.

But, following a tip-off from a member of the public, investigators carried out undercover surveillance on Vessey and on three occasions watched as she banged a drum with the marching band.

Handing her a 10-week community order, District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: "This is not a victimless crime because there is no bottomless pit of money that people can fraudulently claim from. You claimed benefits you were not entitled to and the reality is that society and the courts take a serious view on crimes like this. You made the claim and then participated in marching activities with others."

Lynn Bickley, prosecuting at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court said Vessey submitted a benefits claim on October 3, 2014 and continued receiving money, which totalled £6,251.04, until October 26 the following year.

She said: "We says this was a claim that was dishonest from the outset. She made the claim saying she was virtually unable to walk, needed attention to her leg three times during the day and prolonged attention during the night. In her claim she said she could only walk between 20 and 50 metres without getting out of breath. She said often she could not go outside her front door, or go to shops and supermarkets on her own. She said she could often not use shopping bags and felt anxious if people looked at her when she was outside. But information was received that she was a member of a marching band and regularly took part in lengthy and complex marching routines."

Miss Bickley said investigators for the DWP went to spy on Vessey, to see if the allegations were founded. She said: "The result of the surveillance was that on three occasions she was observed marching in the band with a drum strapped to her shoulder and there were no limitations on her mobility."

Vessey was interviewed and claimed her claim was genuine and that her condition was getting worse. But she later pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and the court was told she is currently paying back the money she illegally claimed.

Judge Taaffe ordered that she pay £85 costs, an £85 victim surcharge and handed her a 10 week curfew, confining her to her address between 7pm and 7am each day.

Peter Jones, for Vessey, said his client had lost her husband "relatively recently" and is currently jointly claiming employment support allowance with her new partner.

He said: "This is a lady that feels great shame that she before the court." He said she understood that it was wrong for her to not reveal she was playing in a marching band.

Source with pictures

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