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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cumbrian benefits cheat caught on camera told to pay back £36,800

A benefits cheat jailed after being caught on camera playing golf after claiming he was too ill even to zip up his trousers on his own has been ordered to pay back the £36,825 he pocketed – or go to prison for another 14 months.

Leigh Neilly photo
Leigh Neilly

Leigh Neilly, a 41-year-old father-of-two from Silloth, claimed the money in disability benefits over an eight-year period between April 2002 and July 2010.

He based his claim on the grounds that he needed help fastening buttons and zips, brushing his teeth and cooking, and that he found walking so difficult it took him up to five minutes to cover 100m.

Yet, when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) carried out surveillance they videoed him playing golf, painting a fence, visiting car boot sales, renovating a house, riding a bike with one hand and carrying heavy bags while shopping with his wife in Penrith.

Neilly – who still denies he did anything wrong – was jailed for seven and a half months after being convicted by a jury of failing to tell the Department of Work and Pensions that his health had improved enough to affect his claim.

And yesterday he faced a Proceeds of Crime hearing at Carlisle Crown Court.

He was ordered to pay back the money within three months – which will mean him having to take out a mortgage on the £146,000 house in Wampool Street, Silloth, which he and his wife own outright.

His defence advocate Mark Shepherd said that though Neilly still disputed the jury’s verdict, and was planning to appeal against it, he accepted that as the law stood he would have to pay the money.

“While the figure is not formally accepted by Neilly he does not seek to challenge it,” he said. “He understands the procedure.”

Mr Shepherd asked Judge Barbara Forrester to allow Neilly 12 months to pay the money back, but she rejected that since all he had to do was fix up a mortgage.

As prosecuting counsel Tim Evans said: “This is money which he was not entitled to and which he has had the benefit of for a considerable period of years.

“I see no reason why a mortgage can’t be raised quite quickly.”

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