A FORMER Royal Mail postman has been found guilty of a £7,000 benefit fraud after he failed to declare his company pension.
Christopher Blythin, 59, was found guilty of one count of dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in circumstance, and two counts of dishonestly failing to notify Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) of a change in circumstances.
Blythin was found by West Cheshire magistrates to have dishonestly claimed £172.29 in income support, £5,558.73 in housing support and £1,442.44 in council tax benefit – a total of £7,173.46 – between July 2010 and August 2012.
Prosecuting, Carolyn Viviani told the Chester court the issue was whether Blythin had acted dishonestly because he had already acknowledged he should have told the DWP he was receiving his £70 per week pension from the Post Office as well as a £20,000 cash lump sum.
Mrs Viviani said when Blythin started receiving his pension in July 2010 he was no longer eligible for his income support, which came to £2.31 a week.
The court also heard Blythin also received a cash lump sum of £20,000 which was left undeclared which made him ineligible for his housing benefit and council tax benefit.
Mrs Viviani said Blythin had admitted in an interview with DWP fraud investigator Colin Peake that it was dishonest to have claimed the money but his defence barrister, Peter Barnett, said the investigators were asking a “leading question”.
Mr Barnett said Blythin was suffering from bipolar disorder and had been signed off on long-term sick. He said Blythin was easily suggestible and when asked by Mr Peake in the interview whether he thought it was dishonest to have claimed the money, he replied “yes”.
Blythin said he was diagnosed with bipolar in 2005 and has been signed off since 2006 because he was hearing voices which had led him to attempt suicide a number of times.
He said he started claiming benefits in 2006 and had only ever filled in one form. He said he only thought he had to tell DWP if there was a change in his medical condition and said he had not read the terms and conditions because “he never does”.
He said when he first got his pension through he went to DIAL House, a charity which helps disabled people, and an adviser there told him he could earn up to £96 a week without it being declared.
When asked about the £20,000 he was given as a lump sum, he said he had paid off debts and helped his son get through university and the money had all gone now.
The court heard Blythin had worked as a Royal Mail postman for 25 years and was of previous good character.
Magistrates found Blythin guilty of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances and sentenced him to a six-week curfew between 7pm and 7am, ordered him to pay £240 costs and a victim surcharge of £60.
They were told Blythin had already begun to pay back the money and has so far paid back about £500.
See full story in the Chester Leader