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6 Jan 2020

Pensioner jailed for benefit fraud

A "manipulative" man who said he was disabled and claimed almost £90,000 in benefits has been jailed after he was filmed living an active life.

Graham Branfield denied fraudulently claiming a little less than £90,000 in benefits, but a jury at Bristol Crown Court convicted him after deliberating for some 90 minutes on December 19.

While the 76-year-old claimed to be disabled, investigators who covertly filmed him discovered he was actually quite sprightly.

He was filmed delivering catalogues, shopping in a supermarket, and seen carrying bags of bird seed weighing between 20kg and 25kg.

Branfield, who lived in St Andrew's before moving to Knowle, represented himself in a trial this week at Bristol Crown Court.

A jury convicted him of fraudulently claiming £62,000 in Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and £25,000 in pension credit over 10 years.

Retired shopkeeper Brian Sheehan, who runs Fur and Feathers in Knowle, gave evidence during the trial. He said Branfield regularly purchased heavy bags of wild bird seed and pigeon corn from him two or three times a week.

He said the pensioner would park his car near the premises before carrying 20kg or 25kg bags to it without difficulty.

And former neighbour Helen Gillespie told the jury he was a regular dog walker. She also told the court Branfield would shop at Morrisons in Hartcliffe and carry items without difficulty.

Ultimately, Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) staff tailed Branfield as he went on one of his regular shopping runs, and captured evidence on camera.

Branfield, who had an interest in feeding wild birds, said he was suffering from a plethora of debilitating ailments for which he was medicated but he was still able to move around in pain.

He also admitted a small amount of catalogue work, for which he said he drove.

Judge James Patrick jailed Branfield for two years, to run extra to a four-year term he is serving for breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

The judge said: "This was a simply breath-taking piece of dishonesty. You are an intelligent man and a man with some charm. But you are a manipulative man. Your application may have been honest from the beginning but you saw it as a blank cheque. You received very large sums of money indeed."

The jury heard interviews Branfield gave in early 2016 during an investigation into alleged benefit fraud. He said he had claimed DLA as he was suffering very badly and took pain medication.

Branfield said he suffered from a joint and muscle problem, renal problems and incontinence.

He said medication gave him the chance to be mobile but he was still in a lot of pain when moving and it had not got any better during the past 10 years.

He added a doctor had advised him Betterware catalogue work and feeding birds were giving him something to live for.

Branfield agreed he would leave home every day at 6am or 7am to feed pigeons and foxes unless he felt too unwell to go.

He maintained walking around did not stop him from suffering severe discomfort and he spent a lot of time indoors, lying on his bed, as he had difficulty coping.

Source with picture

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