Golfer denies disability fraud

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Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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An alleged benefits cheat who claimed he was too ill walk was a champion golfer who played off a handicap of six, a court has heard.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Alan Bannister pocketed more than £26,000 in higher rate Disability Living Allowance over eight years after complaining he was in constant pain.

On a claim form, he said he struggled to raise his hands above his shoulders and it took him up to quarter of an hour to walk just 50 yards, jurors were told.

But the jury saw footage which allegedly showed the 54-year-old pushing a golf trolley laden with clubs around an 18-hole course without any difficultly and hitting a “400 yard drive up the fairway”.

Bannister, of Barry, south Wales, who has a form of chronic arthritis, denies theft and fraud. He insists doctors told him to stay mobile to alleviate his symptoms.

However, the prosecution maintains the defendant lied about the seriousness of his illness and was not entitled to claim a payment usually reserved for people who cannot walk.

Prosecution counsel Stuart McLeese said Bannister had plenty of chances between 2004 and 2012 to tell the Department for Work and Pensions his circumstances had changed.

“He made dishonest representations about the extent of his needs,” said Mr McLeese in his opening.

“He failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions about his care and mobility needs.

“He did not accurately reflect the extent of his condition while filling in claims forms and did not notify the department of any changes in his condition.

“On a claim form he said he could not walk 50 metres before feeling severe discomfort and that it would take him 10 to 15 minutes to do so.

“He said he had these difficulties seven days a week and had problems raising his hands above his head, peeling potatoes and holding heavy saucepans.”

Mr McLeese said in 2004 Bannister joined St Andrews Major Golf Club in the Vale of Glamorgan and went on to have a handicap of six.

“For those who may not know….(that means) Mr Bannister was a pretty good golfer,” he added.

“He was club champion in 2006 and has won other trophies.”

The court heard evidence from Department and Work Pensions investigator Andrew Holland, who decided to covertly film Bannister after receiving an anonymous tip off.

The footage showed the defendant teeing off from the first hole as well as approaching the 18th hole green.

Mr Holland told the court he saw the defendant have little trouble navigating the 18-hole course, which was completed in little over four hours.

He added that he saw Bannister tee off from the first hole with what appeared to be a “400 yard drive up the fairway”.

The court heard Bannister has ankylosing spondylitis – a chronic form of arthritis.

Bannister’s defence is that he would only play golf when taking pain killers and when his condition had not flared up.

He has pleaded not guilty to failing to disclose information to the Department for Work and Pensions and obtaining money transfers totalling £26,090 by deception between October 2004 and July 2012.

Published: Tuesday 3rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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