Benefits cheat from Roydon, near Diss, jailed for four months

A judge said that courts had to try to deter false benefit claimants after he jailed a Norfolk man for four months who falsely claimed more than �25,000 in disability and housing benefits while working as a carpenter.

David Johnston, 62, claimed disability benefits and housing benefits over a two-year period while he had been working as a carpenter earning between �20,000 and �25,000 a year, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Johnston, of Denmark Lane, Roydon, near Diss, admitted failing to inform the Department of Work and Pensions about a change in circumstances between 2007 and July 2009.

The court heard he had a previous conviction for benefit fraud in 1993 when he falsely claimed �931.

Alex Rooke, prosecuting on behalf of the DWP, said Johnston's claim had started out as an honest one as he had some difficulty with his knees.

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However, his health improved enough for him to take on work again as a joiner and Mr Rooke said that Johnston was earning between �20,000 and �25,000 per year gross while getting about �250 a week in state benefits.

Jailing him, Judge Peter Jacobs told Johnston: 'This is a huge amount of public money.' He said that he had a previous conviction and the latest false claim had gone on for some time.

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He added 'The courts have to send out some kind of message to people who are taking what are huge amounts of taxpayers' money.'

Mathew Gowen, for Johnston, said that he had been self-employed and when he first went off sick with his health problems he had been told he was not entitled to claim.

'For many months he had no income at all.'

Mr Gowen said that when he was then able to work again he had done more work than he should have done as he was worried about losing his house.

He said that Johnston was also carer for his wife, who also suffers from health problems.

'He has not lived his life on benefits. He hopes to be in a position to work again.'

He said that Johnston was paying the money back out of the benefits he was now getting.

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