Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 14:43 UK

'Crippled' benefit fraud jailed

Robert Murt playing football
Murt was filmed playing in a five-a-side football competition

A man who said he could barely walk and claimed 90,000 in benefits has been jailed for 18 months after fraud inspectors filmed him playing football.

For 11 years Robert Murt, 50, claimed he was almost crippled with sciatica.

But for much of that time he was working full time as a driving instructor and an HGV driver.

Murt admitted five counts of false accounting at Liverpool Crown Court and asked Judge Mark Brown to take 526 similar offences into account.

Nicola Daley, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said benefit payments made to Murt over the years amounted to 86,683.56.

Anonymous tip-off

She described how Murt began claiming incapacity benefit and disability living allowance in 1994, claiming he could not work because he suffered sciatica and knee problems which left him unable to lift himself from a chair, sit for long periods, or walk more than 55 yards.

But Ms Daley added that while his initial claims were genuine, in 1996 he had recovered enough to return to work as a self-employed driving instructor.

He then continued to claim benefits while taking well-paid jobs as an HGV driver, Ms Daley said.

Blatant fraudsters such as you are devoid of any conscience
Judge Mark Brown

In October 2006, an anonymous tip-off led to covert surveillance of Murt by fraud investigators.

Ms Daley said: "He was seen going to and from home and work with no obvious mobility restrictions.

"He was also seen at Bootle Stadium, where he played five-a-side football for about an hour. He was seen running, twisting and turning.

"He was fully participating in the game with no obvious difficulty.

Murt, of Millersdale Avenue, Liverpool, was interviewed by the DWP and after an initial "reticence", accepted he worked and had been "stupid", Ms Daley said.

Teresa Loftus, defending, said Murt had accepted his guilt and had embarked on the fraud because he had debts.

'Calculated lies'

Judge Brown told him: "It is clear that over an 11-year period you were claiming benefits to which you were not entitled.

"You persistently, deliberately and profusely told blatant and calculated lies to obtain a substantial amount of public money.

"There can be no excuse for your actions. Blatant fraudsters such as you are devoid of any conscience about the fact that you not only help yourself to honest tax payers' money but also take bread out of the mouths of those who need it."

Murt, who is married and has a step-daughter, was jailed for 18 months concurrently for each of the five offences he pleaded guilty to.

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