A FORMER police officer who left his job after suffering an injury in the line of duty has admitted cheating the benefits system out of £6500.
Keith Lockhart, 48, claimed Disability Living Allowance unlawfully for three years after failing to inform the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that his care needs had been reduced.
It is understood the offence came to light when DWP officers were carrying out a separate investigation.
Lockhart, of Dalkeith, admitted failing to notify authorities that his condition had improved and narrowly avoided jail as he was handed 180 hours of unpaid work
Sheriff Wendy Sheehan told Lockhart, 48, that he should have been “more proactive”.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that Lockhart, who left Lothian and Borders Police in 2002, had moved to pay back the sum.
Defence agent Elaine Clancy said Lockhart, who had no previous convictions, had been encouraged to make the initial benefits claim by the police.
She said: “The benefits that were awarded simply remained in place. But the Department of Work and Pensions rely on him to inform them of a change in circumstances.
“His circumstances changed on a number of occasions.”
Sheriff Sheehan said the time he had been claiming the extra benefits was “quite a long period”.
Ms Clancy added: “He’s been awarded employment disability allowance. He doesn’t need extra help in his home. His position is he has always wanted to work. He has tried to get employment but he is often off sick. His view is he is capable of doing unpaid work.”
Sheriff Sheehan said: “He ought to have been more proactive. As a result of the tribunal he’s now trying to pay the sum back.”
She sentenced Lockhart to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work “as a direct alternative to custody”.
She gave him a year to complete the hours rather than the usual six months “in view of his health”.
Officers from the Department of Work and Pensions track down offenders in a number of ways: by checking national insurance contributions, income tax records or though intelligence. The DWP said the case sent out a clear message that those abusing the system would face tough penalties.
Elaine Wilson, fraud investigation manager for Scotland, said: “Most people claiming benefits are honest, but there are some who abuse our welfare system and we will catch them. Deliberately not informing us of a change in your condition that may affect your claim is a crime. Don’t wait for our fraud investigators to find you. Tell us of a change now.
“Our investigators have more powers than ever before to track benefit thieves and bring them before court. And in addition to any sentence imposed by the court, they must also pay back all of the money they falsely obtained.
“We are determined to find those who we suspect are cheating the system.”