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28 Dec 2019

Benefit cheat exaggerated incapacity

Lying Dominic Lappin pocketed £75,683 of taxpayer money on the basis he was too disabled to work - while secretly employed as a delivery driver.

Lappin claimed a range of benefits, including Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments, which he was not entitled to.

A court heard he did have a bad back but he had over-egged his symptoms, claiming he was in constant discomfort and could only walk 10 to 20 yards very slowly and had to stop due to pain.

However, since 2013, he had been working as a delivery driver, driving for up to an hour at a time and being seen to walk 100 metres and climb stairs.

Now the 49-year-old, from Walker, Newcastle, caught after an anonymous tip off, has narrowly avoided going to prison after admitting benefit fraud at Newcastle Crown Court.

Recorder Abdul Iqbal QC told him: 'Over a period of almost six years, you claimed various benefits to which you were not entitled and you received them because you told lies to the DWP and the local authority.

'You received PIP, Housing Benefit, Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance, all on the basis you said you were not working, had no income or that you were incapacitated. You were telling lies. You had an income from work you were failing to declare and you exaggerated your symptoms as a result of your incapacity.

'Hard-pressed public resources were diverted to you when they could have been used elsewhere, for deserving candidates and other public service. The taxpayer has borne the burden for all of that and it's certainly not a victimless crime.'

Prosecutor Stuart Graham said Lappin had made various claims about the state of his health, claiming he couldn't walk far without help, that he needed help rising from his seat, needed help going to the toilet and going up and down stairs and that he felt drowsy and uncoordinated due to his medication.

Mr Graham told the court: 'He was supposed to inform the department of any change in circumstances or work he undertook. The evidence shows he had been working for Elite Powder Coatings from January 2013 as a delivery driver. He drove for up to an hour at a time, clearly in contradiction to the statement he put forward.

'The company director saw him walk 100 metres and climb stairs without any physical distress and he never saw him use a stick or fall down. He never saw him appear nervous, anxious or drowsy or be unable to carry out his duties.'

Recorder Iqbal said Lappin had claimed to have taken up work to set an example to his children but he warned: 'I hope you are ashamed of yourself, standing in the dock, no doubt your children reading in the local newspaper that their father has been convicted of benefit fraud.'

The judge said he had just been persuaded not to lock him up as it would cost more public money to look after him in jail and it would jeopardise his job and his ability to pay the money back and may have an adverse effect on his children.

He was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years with 250 hours of unpaid work.

Brian Hegarty, defending, said: 'The defendant undoubtedly suffered a serious back injury for which he continues to receive treatment to this day. He suffered that in around 2009 while working as a JCB driver. He claimed for benefits and was entitled to then because of his incapacity. The charge is because his condition improved and he failed to inform the agencies.'

He added that the condition was variable and that he continues to use morphine-based pain relief as required and had to take time off work while employed as a part-time delivery driver due to it.

Mr Hegarty said it is possible Lappin would have been entitled to some benefits at a reduced level and was under financial pressure and started working to prove his worth to his family and set an example to his children.

He said he continues to work and rents his home, telling the court: 'He clearly made a terrible mistake.'

The court heard Lappin is paying back his ill-gotten gains at £340 a month and has so far paid back around £4,500.

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