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Court Case Collapses Amid Claims Benefit Fraud Investigator ‘Pressured Witness’

April 7, 2015

So readers, this is going on at the DWP.

A PLYMOUTH benefit fraud investigator has faced disciplinary action for allegedly pressuring a witness to give a false statement.

One case handled by the man has been dropped at court – and it is understood other prosecutions have been abandoned because his evidence is tainted.

It means potentially guilty defendants will walk free and there will be no chance of recovering tens of thousands of pounds in overpaid benefits.

The man, thought to work at the Department for Work and Pensions St Levan’s Road office, could face criminal prosecution

A Crown Prosecution Service letter to a solicitor seen by The Herald said: “We are able to confirm that officer XXXX’s [name removed] disciplinary concerned the falsification of a witness statement by him. He placed pressure on a witness in another matter to give a statement that was not correct.”

The CPS, which takes cases to court on behalf of the DWP, was forced to drop a case at Plymouth Crown Court involving a pensioner accused of a £36,000 benefit fraud.

Raymond Watts, aged 69, from Ivybridge was charged with dishonestly claiming Pension Credit and council tax relief. He was allegedly overpaid about £33,000 in Pension Credit and £3,000 in council tax relief between 2007 and 2013.

A man of good character, he has always protested his innocence.

Sally Daulton, barrister for the CPS, offered no evidence against him.

Recorder John Williams recorded not guilty verdicts.

Nigel Hall, barrister for Mr Watts, told the court: “He is very pleased his name has been cleared”.

He added: “The reason the Crown are dropping it, is the investigating officer, may be dishonest is too strong a word, but it is his evidence, not just in this case, which has been tainted.”

The Crown Prosecution Service has apologised to Mr Watts for the delay in dropping the case. Mr Watts first appeared before city magistrates in December 2013.

The CPS said it had difficulty contacting another DWP officer, who was on long-term sick leave, about the disciplinary action.

CLEARED MAN: ‘BENEFITS ALLEGATIONS PUT ME THROUGH HELL’

SPEAKING after the case was dropped, Raymond Watts said he has still not been told what he did wrong.

He said: “I’ve been through absolute hell the last 18 months. The whole thing was totally unnecessary.

“The case was brought in December 2013 but I was interviewed by them in July 2013. It’s been hanging over me for nearly two years.

“No-one has explained to me what it is I’ve done wrong. It’s just dragged on and on.

“I’m exceedingly relieved. The whole thing appears to have been manufactured.

“It was reported in the press that I was charged and attended the Magistrates’ Court. I’ve had people looking at me ever since then and I know certain people must have been thinking ‘oh he’s charged with benefit fraud, he must be guilty’.

“One’s good character has been under a cloud for getting on two years and I’m still trying to find out what’s going on.

“I’ve queried evidence provided by the DWP ever since I was first charged. My experience was I was interviewed and part of the evidence was a transcription of that interview.

“However, when I read the transcription it wasn’t the interview I attended. To my mind it had been altered to reflect all the points they wanted. Why on earth anybody would do this I don’t know.”

Mr Watts, who used to work in finance in the City of London before being self-employed, said he has been told “all inquiries” by the DWP investigator have been “dropped”.

He said: “They’re exceedingly worried about his behaviour.”

A DWP spokesman said they would make no comment about the case.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2015 11:12 am

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating and commented:
    There are obvious & proven, although denied by the Tories, targets when it comes to sanctioning JSA/ESA claimants, and the Work Coaches & their managers are clearly under pressure to invoke them.

    Consequently, whats to say that these DWP Fraud Investigators aren’t under similar pressures in finding claimants guilty of benefits fraud. A little tippex here, a transcript edit there, and before you know it Bang! Busted, and another vulnerable pensioner is up before the Bench on false charges.
    All courtesy of Idiot Duncan Smith’s Department of War on People!

  2. The Infamous Culex permalink
    April 7, 2015 12:31 pm

    He should sue Iain Drunken Smith for malicious prosecution

  3. Carol Laidlaw permalink
    April 7, 2015 12:33 pm

    A few years ago, I had a case where the DWP were investigating somebody for cohabiting while claiming as a single person. I helped him appeal against the decision he had been overpaid benefit, while a colleague (a solicitor) dealt with his fraud prosecution in the magistrates court. Since I had expertise in welfare rights law, I knew the DWP didn’t have enough evidence to prove cohabitation, and I had two witness statements from relatives of the client who could vouch for where he had been living – not at his girlfriend’s house. The DWP discovered a discrepancy in the housng benefit claim of one of the witnesses,who was the man’s elderly mum, and they called on her and threatened to proscute her for fraud if she didn’t sign a statement. If she signed “everything would be all right”. They didn’t let her read it or keep a copy. It was a false statement saying that the son had never lived with her and she thought he was living with his girlfriend! They had the brass to give this to the magistrates court as evidence. The old lady was too ill to travel to the social security appeal hearing, so I re-interviewed her and videotaped the interview, and showed it to the judge at the tribunal hearing. Result, he believed the witnesses (and the documentary evidence), decided the DWP investigator was a liar, and I won the appeal. (The DWP investigator did not have the bottle to attend the appeal hearing.) The DWP then withdrew the prosecution because we would have used the evidence from the social security appeal in the man’s defence, and they could have been prosecuted themselves for contempt of court or worse. My solicitor colleague then told me he had once worked for the DWP fraud section and this kind if dodgy practice was commonplace. (Though I wondered why he didn’t look at the case more closely himself, knowing that; perhaps his previous job with the DWP had damaged his moral compass.)

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