Benefits cheat was in marching band

Alex Clarkson
Alex Clarkson
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BRAZEN benefit fraud Alexander Clarkson banged his drum once too often and landed himself in court.

For he was secretly captured on film by investigators marching the streets in his full Scottish pipe band regalia and kilt.

At the same time Clarkson, 63, was raking in thousands of pounds of cash by claiming he could only walk a maximum of 15 yards, could not tie up his own shoe laces and was always falling over because of his disabilities.

Scotsman, Clarkson, 63, of Ashfield Road, Bispham, admitted cheating the Department of Work and Pensions out of £17,329 over a six year period by failing to tell them his disabilities had improved.

District Judge Jeff Brailsford sitting at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court gave Clarkson a 56-day jail term suspended for a year.

He was told the former soldier turned bricklayer had not worked for 33 years.

Michael Woosnam, prosecuting, told how Clarkson lived a double life.

Crutches

On one hand he said he needed crutches to get about and could not travel anywhere alone.

As well as a Disability Living Allowance Clarkson also claimed Carers Allowance because he needed help cooking meals.

But at the same time he was a dedicated member of the City of Preston Scottish Pipe and Drum band and a member of the Blackpool Male Voice Choir.

The court heard the DWP were tipped off about Clarkson’s cheating and sent a surveillance team to follow him.

They filmed him at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Great Harwood where he was lead drummer marching the streets for 30 minutes.

The following day he was followed walking to a funeral and then attending the wake which followed.

Mr Woosnam said: “In interview Clarkson said he had continued to claim benefits because he quite simply did not want to lose the money. He also said he had applied to have the carer’s element of his claim upgraded.”

Peter Manning, defending, said Clarkson did have arthritic knees, asthma and diabetes and had recently had an operation on his groin.

He said: “My client accepts he should have informed the department about his improved mobility.”

Sentencing Clarkson, the judge said: “It is clear from the film I have seen, you got pleasure from being in the band. You clearly marched and bent down to pick up your drum. There seemed to be no hindrance to your mobility.”

“You have been living a comfortable lifestyle as a result of your benefits allowing you to pay £100 a month TV subscriptions and £80 a month on drink and £120 a month on travel.”