Woman Found Guilty of Benefit Fraud – After DWP Films her Playing with Dog
Last month, I reported on how DWP investigators had reviewed CCTV footage from a claimant’s place of work and used it to bring a prosecution for falsely claiming Disability Allowance. A reader made the comment that it is surprising the lengths the DWP can and will go to in gathering evidence. Well, prepared to be even more surprised by what happened in Devon last month!
53 year old Sandra Tipton is a dog lover who enjoys attending shows with her beloved boxers. However, since sustaining an injury in 2013, she has suffered from a frozen shoulder, vertigo and dizziness. She has been claiming disability allowance and often uses a mobility scooter to exercise her dogs.
Dog Show Frolics
The problems began when Mrs Tipton was reported to the DWP for participating in several dog shows where, according to witnesses, she would: “trot around the parade ring and help organisers put up tents.”
This was sufficient cause for the DWP to commence their investigative process, and that is where things became quite remarkable.
Covert Video Surveillance
The DWP decided to launch a surveillance operation, and sent investigators to her home town of Paignton. They filmed her leaving her house on her mobility scooter with the dogs, and then secretly followed her to the coastal path near her home. There, they continued to film her actions, as she got off the scooter and walked without a stick. They also filmed her throwing a ball for her dogs, and bending to bag and remove dog poo.
The investigators used the video footage as their main evidence in a hearing that took place at Exeter Crown Court in June. The jury was played the footage, which showed her getting on and off her scooter with apparent ease in order to attend to her pets.
Prosecutors alleged that she was faking her injuries and that she had failed to inform the Department of Work and Pensions that her condition had improved over the past five years, in order to continue receiving benefits.
Mrs Tipton denied the charges. She told the jury that while she feels better at some times of the day than others, her general condition is no better now than it was in 2013. She added that she feels embarrassed about using her mobility scooter, and tries to manage without it whenever she can. She categorically denied dishonesty.
The jury, however, came down on the side of the DWP. They found that she had failed to report a change in personal circumstances, and in doing so had fraudulently claimed more than £8,000.
On 25 June, Mrs Tipton was found guilty of fraud, and was sentenced to a 42-day curfew from 8pm to 6am.
Benefit fraud is not the victimless crime that some people allege. It is ultimately taking money from those who have a genuine right and need. However, our experience at Hylton Potts is that those who commit fraud of this kind very seldom do so knowingly or with the objective of stealing.
One thing that the Sandra Tipton case shows beyond any doubt is that none of that matters to the DWP investigators, and once they are on the trail of a potential false claim, they will go to extraordinary lengths to make their case.
If you have any concerns of this nature, the important thing is to get assistance, and that is why we are here. You can be guaranteed a sympathetic and non-judgemental ear, and we will be on your side to deal directly with the DWP so that you don’t have to.
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