A BENEFITS cheat who claimed he had difficulties walking for nearly four years has been spared a jail sentence by a crown court judge.

Paul Brown, 49, had told the Department of Work and Pensions that his mobility was seriously restricted as he made a claim for disability living allowance, Burnley Crown Court heard.

And he also stated, to increase his benefit payments, that he required help with his personal care, the court was told.

But it later emerged, after a DWP investigation, that he had ‘over-exaggerated’ the extent of his walking difficulties and he was prosecuted by the agency. Interviewed by officials, he said that his benefits form had originally been completed by his mother and he had just signed the bottom.

Brown, of Dover Street, Nelson, admitted making a false representation for benefits between April 2009 and February 2013.

He was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and given 12 months probation supervision by Judge Simon Newell. Richard Taylor, defending, said his client, if he had not claimed disability living allowance (DLA), would have had a notional entitlement to employment support allowance, over the same period.

The court heard that while the overpayment for DLA was just over £20,000, the overall loss to the state was instead around £10,000. Brown is now repaying the money back to the department.

Passing sentence, Judge Newell said the defendant had claimed he had difficulties in walking and the form had been completed by Brown’s mother as he could not read or write.

The offence merited a suspended prison sentence to act as a deterrent, he added.