A benefits cheat who claimed he could not walk more than 25 yards was caught out after he was filmed striding down a fairway – playing GOLF.
Chris Mowatt, 47, claimed £16,000 disability allowance over three-and-a-half years after convincing benefit chiefs a slipped disc in his back had left him unable to walk.
But a Department for Work and Pensions surveillance team brought scheming Mowatt to justice by filming him pushing his golf bag along a fairway and striking shots.
When faced with the footage former fork-lift truck driver Mowatt, who has a handicap of 21 and plays golf at a competitive level, admitted his scam.
He was ordered to pay back £15,888.90 in disability living allowance he illegally claimed between August 8, 2006 and January 5, 2010 at Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court.
Arthur Balls, prosecuting, revealed Mowatt told the DWP he could not walk more than 25 yards without the aid of a stick after suffering a slipped disc.
He said: ”He was observed playing golf and walking along fairways without any apparent difficulty.
”He was observed getting in and out of a vehicle, bending and without difficulty.”
The court heard DWP carried out undercover at Rookery Park Golf Club, in Lowestoft, Norfolk, in June 2009 after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public.
They filmed the benefit cheat playing a full round of golf with friends without needing a stick and walking up to 100 metres at a time without pausing.
He was filmed striding confidently along the fairway while pushing a golf bag filled with clubs and playing several shots.
Other footage showed Mowatt, who regularly plays in club competitions, bending down and getting into his car without any visible pain.
When Mowatt was asked at a DWP interview in October 2009 whether his disability had improved, he replied that his health was better on some days than on others.
Michael Cole, defending, told the court Mowatt had not pocketed the total bill because he had spent a period of time in jail on a separate case.
The court heard Mowatt downs 200mgs of morphine a day to numb his back pain and severity of pain differs ”day-to-day”.
He said the level of painkiller was reduced over a period of time, though his disability could vary in severity.
Mowatt, of Gorleston, Norfolk, was given a two month suspended sentence and ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.
Lord David Freud, minister for welfare reform, has commented on the case and believe benefit fraud takes money ”away from the most vulnerable”.
He said: ”It’s cases like these that show us why welfare reform is needed.
”We have a duty to the taxpayer and our customers to make sure that these vital benefits only go to those who need them.
”Benefit fraud takes money away from the most vulnerable.
”It is a crime and we are committed to stopping it by catching criminals at the front line and making sure our reforms make the benefit system less open to abuse.”
Mowatt began claiming benefits after he suffered a back injury while at work and is currently repaying the overpayment at a rate of £19.80 per fortnight.
The court heard Mowatt suffered a heart attack on July last year and will attempt to find work if his health improves.