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15 Jan 2020

Lawyer was benefit cheat

A "Walter Mitty" lawyer who claimed £60,000 in disability handouts by falsely claiming he could barely walk was filmed by investigators scaling the stairs inside a courthouse.

Dr Alan Blacker, 47, said he was only able to walk with "much intrepidity, pain and fear of falling after only 20 yards but was photographed "moving with ease" at Cardiff Crown Court.

He also seen "looking particularly elated" after a legal victory where he scaled the court's stairs, saluted security staff as he was searched and pounded the corridors inside - giving staff a cheery wave en route.

Incriminating CCTV footage of Blacker - who also goes by the name Lord Harley - was taken by DWP officials who also discovered the school governor had helped construct a miniature railway.

He also took part in first aid training whilst claiming state handouts between September 1997 and October 2015.

Blacker a solicitor advocate, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, who was once compared by a judge to a "character from Harry Potter" - claimed disability living allowance including a high rate mobility component which is usually applicable to claimants who have no legs or feet from birth or due to amputation.

In one claim form from 1998 he said: "My whole life centres around avoiding pain, I cannot carry on through life without it really impacting me and causing me real pain. I am not able to keep my focus on any other thing. I started with these problems in 1996. I have problems with self care. These problems cause a risk to my life".

In a subsequent statement he also said he had his own specially adapted shower and said: "Some days I lay in bed all day and cannot motivate myself to get up. I feel like my condition has worsened."

At Minshull Street Crown Court he was convicted of benefit fraud after the CCTV was shown to a jury.

He was sentenced to nine months jail suspended for two years after Judge Paul Lawton branded him a "dishonest man and a deluded fantasist."

Sentencing the judge added: "The picture you painted was one of a severely disabled man but what you said was plainly dishonest. You regularly went out and walked around without a walking stick, aid or carer.

"You walked around a primary school regularly in your capacity as school governor. You made weekly visits to the miniature railway societies where you assisted in driving and maintaining the trains and took part in track maintenance. Those were not the actions of a man on excruciating daily pain.

"You were walking around Cardiff crown court ascending and descending steel flights of stairs with no difficulty whatsoever.

"What you do have diagnoses of alkalising spondylitis and tenosynovitis but you simply use those existing conditions as a dishonest shroud behind which you completely exaggerated your physical disabilities.

"After observing you over a sustained period at trial, I am satisfied that you are not only a dishonest man, but also a deluded fantasist.

"Ultimately and in desperation you tried to tell the jury that the DWP were conspiring to convict you because of your success against them as a benefits appeal lawyer. This was utter desperation from a man confronted with the truth.

"One thing you plainly failed to grasp in your legal education Mr Blacker, is that the rule of law applies to us all - it has no preferences or favourites and those who abuse it are inevitably found out, as you were.

"The jury properly saw through your complete Walter Mitty existence. That was public money that you dishonestly claimed, the loss to the tax payer in excess of £60,000."

Blacker had come to prominence in 2014 when another judge at Cardiff demanded to know why Blacker appeared before him wearing colourful ribbons and badges on his gown to represent a man charged with death by dangerous driving.

He compared his Hagrid-like outfit to "something out of Harry Potter" and urged Blacker to dress more appropriately in future.'

At the time Blacker publicly claimed he was "shocked, appalled and very upset" by the criticism but CCTV of him at court was later seized after DWP officials suspected he was illegally pocketing handouts.

Miss Chloe Fordham prosecuting said: "Witnesses describe many circumstances where he was engaged in a number of actions such as first aid training, which requires physical actions and the construction of a model railway.

"He was seen walking up and down stairs and getting into and out of vehicles without difficulty. He was seen to use a stick but there was nobody helping him standing or walking.

"He believed he was someone who was entitled to retain his benefits but the prosecution say he was dishonest about the changes in his circumstances in order to continue to claim disability living allowance.

"The high rate mobility component is available to people who cannot walk at all, or have no legs or feet from birth or due to amputation.

"They can only walk short distances before being in severe discomfort or endangering their life. They are either 100% blind and/or 80% deaf, or somewhat mentally impaired.

"A middle rate care component is available for people who require frequent assistance getting in and out of the bathroom, washing, dressing and tending to their needs. They also require supervision throughout the day.

"The defendant said he needed someone for "physical support", for getting to the bathroom, and he had a problem keeping his balance. He said he could walk no more than 20 yards says he falls over regularly and has trouble crossing the roads.

"When asked if he would need someone he said "yes, everyday without fail. I cannot rise from my feet without someone, I cannot stand up for long enough".

He also said he has problems cutting up food and eating and drinking.

"He said he always found sitting painful and said he has to use large handled cutlery. In 2011 there was a further form claiming his entitlement to benefits was appropriate as he was unable to walk and needed full physical support.

"He said he received physical care from someone and said he was at risk of harming himself by accident."

"He said he practised law through a charity and not for financial gain and was shown footage where he was seen moving about with ease at Cardiff Crown Court in 2014.

"He told them he won a Crown Court case on behalf of a client and he became particularly elated but it It must have been clear to Alan Blacker that once he was able to move around, he should have informed those facts to the DWP. But he knew this would affect his entitlement.

The DWP stopped Blacker's benefits in 2016 following a review.

That same year he was struck off for making "inaccurate and misleading" statements about his academic qualifications and professional memberships and was later made bankrupt by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with debts of over £100,000.

Blacker denied benefit fraud. Defence lawyer lawyer Dominic D'Souza said in mitigation: "This man has suffered with many severe disabilities. These conditions are debilitating. He has assisted over 7,500 clients over a 25 year basis and he had been doing pro bono legal work.

"He is somebody, bar this incident, who has contributed to this community that puts people like me to shame.

"The question of being a doctor, or lord, or viscount, there are self esteem issues there. He has done an awful lot for an awful lot of people.

"He suffers from a Walter Mitty desire to improve his self esteem. This is not an out and out fraud. This will be paid back over time."

Source with pictures

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