A FORMER police officer who was employed as a decision maker for the DWP has been convicted... of being a benefit cheat.
Ian Harrison secretly fiddled the organisation he worked for, Blackpool magistrates were told.
Harrison’s colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) mounted surveillance on him and he was arrested for fraudulently claiming higher rate Disability Living Allowance.After leaving Lancashire Police, Harrison, of Poulton, joined the DWP’s anti-fraud unit.
He claimed a back injury suffered during his police career meant he could only walk 40 yards in three minutes and could not wash or shower properly.
He started to claim benefits in 2006 magistrates in Blackpool heard.
But his role as an executive officer came under suspicion at the DWP’s offices at Warbreck Hill, North Shore.
Huw Edwards, prosecuting for the DWP, told the court: “In his job Harrison would look at people’s claims, he would take statements and give evidence in court against fraudsters.
“But, all that time he was claiming himself. The DWP started surveillance on him and had him covertly filmed.
“In addition to the video footage some 20 of his colleagues were asked about his condition at work and some said he had been moving around freely at work and did not need a stick.”
“But none of them knew he was claiming Disabled Living Allowance at the higher rate and it was clear to them he would not have been entitled to such benefits.”
The magistrates watched footage of Harrison walking with ease, pushing a shopping trolley and taking his dog on a lead on a trip to the Lake District.
The court heard Harrison cheated the state out of £10,672.
Harrison pleaded guilty to failing to tell the DWP about a change in his circumstances – namely a change in his physical capabilities and that his mobility needs had decreased.
Allan Godwin, defending, said his client had suffered an injury while working as a policeman and had since suffered anxiety and depression.
The lawyer said: “This is not all a figment of his imagination. He even had to have a specially designed desk at work to assist him.
“When he was working for the DWP he took time off work sick and his GP told him to get out and about more. He found his condition improved as a result. It is all a matter of degrees of improvement, but he does accept he should not have continued on the higher rate allowance.
“Over the time he got better when he thought he would get worse. He has put people in the dock and now he sits there himself thoroughly ashamed at getting his first conviction.”
Mr Godwin added Harrison – now 70 and retired – had paid back the money.
Sentencing Harrison to nine weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, and an eight week curfew, magistrate Janet Boccaccio said: “In my 17 years as a magistrate I’ve never come across a worse case than this.
“It was a gross breach of trust for a man in your work and it took place over a long period of time. You were within a whisker of going to jail.”