Auchenblae man fined for fraud

An Auchenblae man who was secretly filmed “running” across a road whilst being investigated for disability benefit fraud has been charged.

John Forrester, a benefits worker in Aberdeen, allegedly claimed on his application for disability living allowance that he was in severe pain with osteoarthritis and struggled to walk.

The 50 year old is alleged to have received £2537.85 he was not entitled to because he could walk without supervision or assistance. Forrester used the money he claimed to go towards a new mobility car under a government scheme.

The former Kincorth Academy head of music was struck off the teaching register after starting a relationship with 16-year-old pupil Claire Bennett eight years ago.

The couple went on to have two children and were married in 2010 but separated 18 months later.

Forrester was then working for the Department of Work and Pensions in Aberdeen processing job seekers allowance claims when he claimed the disability allowance.

The court heard from Forrester that his wife’s family had suggested he should claim disability living allowance for the effects of a knee injury he sustained in a motorcycle accident 30 years ago.

However in December 2010, fraud investigators working alongside Forrester in the Aberdeen office secretly recorded him “running” across an Aberdeen street and walking at a moderate pace for a long period of time on his lunch hour.

Forrester insisted he was enduring extreme pain at the time and said he was carrying out errands for his wife and children.

He admitted his pain was not visible and said: “I have never walked about with a scowl on my face when I’m in pain. I have had to deal with this for 30 years until my knee was replaced recently. That was my life.”

Stephanie Gilbert, Benefit fraud investigator, told Stonehaven Sheriff Court last month that she was asked to carry out surveillance on Forrester in December 2010 and said: “On Union Street he ran across the road in front of a bus. That’s how we lost him. I was startled that he ran across the road like that.”

Last week, Sheriff Valerie Johnston convicted Forrester of making false statements to claim £2,537.85 that he was not entitled to because he could walk without supervision or assistance.

Chris Maitland, defending Forrester, said his only crime was not giving enough details in answering the questions on the application.

However, Sheriff Valerie Johnston dismissed this claim by saying that the terms of the disability award would have been clear to Forrester when he received the approval letter which stated that he was “virtually unable to walk”.

Forrester was fined £750 and was told that the cash he fraudulently obtained would be claimed back by the Department of Work and Pensions.