Benefit cheat stole £38k from taxpayers

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A wheelchair-bound Castle Hedingham man who cheated the benefit system out of nearly £40,000 has been spared jail.

Alan Honey, of Nunnery Street, who suffers from a degenerative condition and other problems, appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday charged with falsely claiming for taxis and personal support worth £38,000.

The 56-year-old pleaded guilty to two offences of fraud between November 1, 2009, and December 23, 2011, relating to access to work payments to help facilitate his employment.

The court heard that Honey, who worked as a data controller for Islington Borough Council, was entitled to the access to work payments but he was claiming for taxis and a support worker – his wife – when not using either.

“It was not fraudulent from the outset, but it involved multiple frauds,” said prosecutor Ben Zurawel.

In mitigation, Christopher Paxton said his client’s condition had deteriorated since the proceedings started.

He added Honey, who has Parkinson’s disease, emphysema, cardio-vascular conditions, renal problems and other neurological conditions, had medically retired from work in autumn last year.

Mr Paxton said due to this, his financial position was now precarious, as he had a very modest pension and was no longer entitled to benefits.

Sentencing Honey to a six-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC said no matter what his problems, what he had done was wrong.

“You are an ill man but you were not entitled to those benefits, morally or legally, and you stole them from the community,” he said.

Judge Goldstaub added that he was suspending the sentence “out of humanity” because of Honey’s immobility.

Steps are now to be taken to confiscate Honey’s assets in order to recover the £38,000 overpayment.

Mr Zurawel said Honey and his wife could be forced to sell their home to meet the costs.