Former MP found guilty of benefit fraud
A former Conservative member of parliament has been charged with falsely claiming disability benefits to the tune of more than £10,000. The accusations are all the more galling in that he defrauded the very authority that he had previously been elected to represent – Fylde Council in the north west of England.
Albert Pounder is a 74 year old with a long history in local government. He also has a reputation for attracting controversy. In 2011, he was at the centre of an investigation into planning applications at a local hotel, in which he had failed to disclose personal business interests. That controversy ultimately died a death and the investigation was wound down. But the latest legal action is one that he will be unable to walk away from.
Mr Pounder has been in receipt of Disability Living Allowance for more than 20 years. He started claiming the benefit in 1996, having completed an application in 1995. In that, he reported that he could only walk very short distances – 50 yards at most – and that he needed assistance with everyday tasks such as getting into and out of the bath, washing his hair and even climbing stairs.
He told the DWP that he suffered from tendonitis, shortness of breath, pain in his feet, pain in his shoulders and other discomforts.
As a result of these medical conditions, Mr Pounder had been awarded Disability Living Allowance at the high rate mobility component and the middle rate care component. These amounted, in total, to £112.65 per week.
A life in the political spotlight is not ideal for someone who is committing benefit fraud. It appears that after claiming these allowances for more than 20 years, somebody somewhere felt that Mr Pounder’s condition was not quite as he said it was and reported him to the DWP under suspicion of making a false claim.
The DWP launched a full investigation in which they carried out covert surveillance on the former councillor as he went about his day to day life. This included taking photographs and video footage of him as he attended town hall meetings and even following him to the Staining Village Field Day, in the summer of 2015.
During the trial that took place at Preston Crown Court last month, the jury heard that DWP investigators watched Mr Pounder help out at the village event. They described how he walked a distance of more than 200 yards before pausing to lean on a gate, and that he later folded and carried a trestle table.
The jury found Mr Pounder guilty on two counts of fraud – one for failing to disclose his true medical condition and another relating to a separate incident in which he falsely claimed housing benefits over a one month period in 2016.
He will be sentenced at a separate hearing later this month, and given his personal background and the position of trust and authority that he occupied prior to his retirement last year, a custodial sentence is certainly a possibility.
Mr Pounder consistently denied all the accusations throughout his trial, and declined to speak to reporters afterwards.
The DWP is watching
As stories like these continue to hit the headlines, they serve as a reminder that as far as the DWP is concerned, nobody is above the law. They can and will act on any and all information and tip-offs they receive – whatever your background!
If you have been informed of an investigation against you, don’t panic. Hylton Potts has a team of experienced advisors who will be on your side every step of the way to help you achieve the best outcome. Give us a ring on 020 7381 8111. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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