Benefits man's curfew appeal rejected

A BENEFITS claimant who was paid more than £25,000 of public money he was not entitled to has been told by top judges he cannot complain about his curfew, as it was part of his punishment.

Michael John Hale's claim was initially legitimate when he was undergoing treatment for cancer, but he then continued to receive money for six years after he had recovered enough to return to work.

The 60-year-old, who lives in a caravan in Crackwell Holiday Park, Penally, was handed a suspended sentence at Swansea Crown Court in October, after he admitted failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting entitlement to benefit.

He was also handed a curfew between 10pm and 6am, ordered to last for four months, and made to pay back nearly £10,000 to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Last week Hale challenged his curfew, with his lawyers arguing it was 'excessive' in light of the financial penalties imposed upon him, and also 'inappropriate' for his type of offending.

But his appeal was thrown out by three of the country's most senior judges, who said the night-time curfew was not too restrictive and was part of his punishment for his 'serious' crime.

Hale began claiming Disability Living Allowance in 2002, shortly after being diagnosed with non-Hogkin's lymphoma - which left him unable to walk and in need of care.

He was told he must let the DWP know if there was any change to his circumstances.

By 2005, Hale was well enough to return to work and got a job as a handyman at the holiday park where he lived.

However, he did not tell the authorities he was working and he continued to be paid the disability benefit - getting more than £25,000 in total over six years, until the DWP received a tip-off.

His lawyers argued the curfew was over the top, given his personal circumstances, and said it was inappropriate to restrict his movements at night-time.

But, dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Holroyde said the curfew wasn't 'particularly onerous' for Hale, as it didn't restrict his ability to work and earn money, and was part of his punishment.

Sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Judge John Milford QC, he added: "This was a most serious offence of its kind.

"It was an offence persisted in over many years and at substantial cost to the public purse."

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