THIS is the moment a £20,000 disability benefits cheat who claimed he struggled to walk even short distances was caught climbing over a wall.

Inspectors from the Department of Work and Pensions caught 50-year-old Steven James Higgins working as a courier.

Burnley magistrates heard Higgins claimed he was in constant pain and needed help at home. But a fraud investigator saw him using steps and carrying out his business without any discomfort.

Prosecutors said the five year fraudulent claims of Disability Living Allowance had netted Higgins £19,492.

The defendant is no longer in receipt of the benefit, but is appealing the DWP's decision to remove it.

Higgins, of York Street, Crawshawbooth admitted two counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit, between May 9, 2008 and September 10, 2013.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for a year and was ordered to pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

Prosecutor Andrew Robinson said Higgins made his claim for DLA, saying he could walk less than 20 metres in seven to 10 minutes and that would permanently be the case.

He told the DWP he sometimes needed a walking stick, was in constant pain, wouldn't feel comfortable out on his own and needed help at home. Higgins stated he couldn't prepare meals.

Mr Robinson said evidence was available to show his situation changed and was no longer as severe as his original claim.

Higgins was self-employed as a courier driver for a company and had not notified the department of this or any improvement in his condition.

The court heard it was not a fraud from the outset and the defendant, who had no previous convictions, had not yet repaid any of the money.

Jeremy Frain, defending, said the criminality was not the fact Higgins was working, but there was an "indiscretion" if a person put on the original claim form they could only walk five feet without having to stop for a breather and were discovered to have walked six or seven feet without stopping.

The defendant attended a rheumatology clinic. The solicitor read out part of a medical letter, which stated the defendant had progressive destructive disease and marked damage to his hands and feet which would undoubtedly limit his ability to perform daily functions.

Mr Frain said Higgins had been suffering anxiety as a result of the protracted court proceedings.