A MAN received benefits after claiming he could not walk more than five metres was captured on video morris dancing.
Allan Baldwin conned the Department of Work and Pensions out of over £28,000 by pretending he was so ill that he could not get out by himself.
But the 67-year-old former teacher was actually spending his time travelling around the country with a folk dance group and going for long walks.
And Baldwin, formerly of St Peter’s Street, Rishton, was caught on video skipping, jumping and waving pieces of coloured cloth as he dance with on-lookers.
Laura Findley, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, said: “He said he was likely to fall or stumble, so he needed someone with him when he was outdoors and he could not stand for long enough to cook a meal.
“He was in fact a member of a morris dancing group where he was predominantly a musician, but also a dancer.
“As part of that group, he went for several long walks which were several miles long.”
The court was told how Baldwin had originally been correctly claiming benefits after suffering heart attacks and being considered for a heart transplant.
But when his condition improved, he did not tell the authorities and continued to claim too much.
As a member of the Solway Morris Group, in Wigton, Cumbria, he performed at Wigton Carnival and played the melodeon at the Boot and Shoe pub in Greystoke, also Cumbria.
He was also spotted walking in Great Harwood town centre in May 2013, going to a cash machine before getting back into his vehicle.
It was other people in the Morris Dancing troupe who reported Baldwin to the DWP.
The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of committing benefit fraud between April 2008 and September 2013 and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
He must also do 200 hours of unpaid work, which will be converted into a Scottish community payback order so that it can be carried out where he now lives.
There may also be a civil case to recoup the £28,000.
Philip Holden, defending, said: “This is a classic case of a claim that has become fraudulent through the passage of time, rather than at its inception.
“He still has considerable health problems.
“He ought to have notified the department, there is no doubt about that, but he does continue to have considerable problems to this day.”
The barrister added how his client still suffers from hypertension, diabetes, angina and gout. He has to take a ‘large amount’ of medication every day.
The court heard how Baldwin, now of Peacock Place, Lockerbie, had also previously been dealt with by the courts for defrauding the benefit’s sytem in Scotland out of £25,000.
That action overlapped the time he was fraudulently claiming for the matters he was dealt with yesterday (FRI).
Miss Recorder Anna Vigars said: “We are talking about a teacher of 25 years’ experience who has led a hitherto unblemished life.
“It is not an easy system and there are some people who need its support who find it particularly difficult to access.
“Baldwin is a man who is articulate and is better placed than many to understand the obligations within the system.
“This is the last occasion upon which we can possibly say that you are deserving of any mercy from the courts in relation to benefits.”
She said: “It is sometimes thought that claiming benefit is a victimless crime. The victims in your offending behaviour were tax payers generally, but also those who did need the help and support of the state and were able to receive less of it because of your dishonesty.”
Speaking after the hearing, Jane Baker, DWP fraud manager in the North West, said: “It is our duty to ensure that benefit payments go to those who really need them and we are committed to cracking down on those who play the system. Our welfare reforms are vital to close the gaps that cheats take advantage of.
“It is unfair that some people get support when they do not have a disability, while many people depend on the benefits system to provide a safety net.
“Deliberately not informing us of a change in your condition that may affect your claim is a crime. Don’t wait for our fraud investigators to find you. Tell us of a change now.”