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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Cumbrian benefits cheat who claimed £38,000 sent to prison

A woman who was secretly filmed striding for miles around a Carlisle golf course while she claimed thousands in disability benefits has been jailed for seven months.

Roberta Packman photo
Roberta Packman

Roberta Packman, 57, dishonestly pocketed £38,000 in benefits after claiming she was crippled by back pain.

When she reported for interviews with officials from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), she appeared to struggle to walk.

But covert surveillance videos screened at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday showed that her five years’ worth of claims were based on a lie.

The footage showed her walking around the Stoneyholme Golf Course in Carlisle, using heavy clubs to hit the ball, and lifting a heavy golfing bag into the boot of her car, mostly while she was puffing away on a cigarette.

Packman, of Albyfield South, Cumrew, near Brampton, initially denied doing anything wrong.

But on the morning she was due to face a trial, she pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud over five years.

“She illegally claimed severe disability premium Income Support between 2006 and 2011, and disability living allowance.

The court heard that Packman continued to claim her disability benefits even though she was able to walk more than three miles around the Carlisle golf course.

Yet she had told officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that her disability was such that she had difficulty walking.

She claimed she needed to hold on to her partner in order to walk any distance and was constantly in pain.

In one sequence of the surveillance video, she is seen jogging confidently along a path towards the clubhouse, and lifting heavy equipment into her car.

DWP officials said the video showed clearly that she was deceiving officials and was not severely disabled.

Passing sentence, Recorder Kevin Grice told Packman that those in genuine need suffered when the state’s already limited resources are reduced by such frauds.

He said: “We all pay for it by our taxes. This is not a victimless crime.”

He noted with concern a suggestion from background reports that Packman felt she was in some way entitled to the money she got.

The judge added: “I can only conclude that your motivation was simply one of greed and a wish for financial gain.

“In my view this was a prolonged course of dishonesty by which a significant amount of benefits were obtained to which you were not entitled.”

Commenting after the case, Roy Paul, the DWP’s north west area fraud investigations chief, said the case – triggered by an anonymous tip-off to the authorities – should serve as a warning to other cheats.

“This was a blatant fraud over a prolonged period, from 2006 to 2011,” he said.

“All our investigators are highly trained and the evidence gathered on the video surveillance for this case was clearly damning.

“There was only ever going to be one outcome for the defendant. As the judge said, this is not a victimless crime: it affects everybody.

“Every year, benefit fraud costs this country around £1.2 billion.”

Packman will be back in court in April when prosecutors will attempt to strip her of the £38,489 that she fraudulently claimed.

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