JAILED: Benefits fraudster was caught on camera playing bowls
A woman, who played crown green bowls while pocketing more than £44,000 in disability benefits by claiming to be barely able to walk, has been jailed for 18 months.
Rebecca Peach got away with the scam for at least five years and possibly more, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard on Friday.
But a tip-off to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) lead to an investigation – where 49-year-old Peach was secretly filmed playing bowls without showing any signs of discomfort.
WATCH the footage here
The tell-tale video – shot at the Amery Unionist Bowling Club in Coppice Lane, Willenhall in September 2017 – showed the supposedly badly disabled woman jogging up and down the steps – and around the perimeter of the bowling green. She was also seen bending down to deliver her bowl, gleefully punching the air in triumph after a good shot and running across the bowling green with a tape measure.
She had previously admitted fraudulently failing to disclose to the DWP that her capabilities had improved with the intention of making a gain for herself.
Prosecuting, Mr Richard Davenport said from March 9, 2011, to February 2, 2016 Peach was said to have claimed to £34,120.90 in Disability Living Allowance. It was changed to Personal Independence Living Allowance in February 2016, and her claims up to November 29, 2017, were said to be £10,745.10, he added.
Peach, with no previous convictions, had claimed during her benefits claims that she was in severe pain while walking, was regularly forced to stop and needed crutches because her legs gave way without warning.
The court heard she also claimed that she never went out alone, and needed help to cook and dress herself by her partner – and also had pain in her legs, knees and back.
But Mr Davenport said she was apparently playing bowls up to four days a week for many years and represented teams in several local leagues in Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire. He said that in 2012 she had played 39 matches in which she won 16, while in 2015 she had played 40 matches and won 15.
While questioning her in the witness box, Mr Davenport said: "You are just a lying fraudster aren't you?"
Sobbing, Peach replied: "No."
Defending, Ms Katie Fox, said: "She has recognised she acted wrongly. She accepts what is seen on the video is not what is on the forms.
"She will have to repay the money – she will have to sell the family home. The enormous upheaval rests entirely on her shoulders. For this lady, 49 years of age of previous good character, the shame has been enormous."
Peach, from Lodge Street, Willenhall, was jailed for 18 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court. She will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing at a future date to be set.
In sentencing her, Judge Barry Berlin said: "You said the pain was constant and you couldn't do anything. You stated in both forms what you like to do is watch television and you do swimming with help – but you did not mention that you bowl, you were doing that from at least 2009 at a relatively high level.
"All of it was a lie and it went on. The time this fraud took place was some six years, but probably longer than that. The appropriate punishment can only be achieved in this case by an immediate custodial sentence."
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