Stoke & Staffordshire

Disability cheat Gillian Hulme ran half marathon

A running club member who competed in a half-marathon while claiming to be disabled has been given a suspended eight-month sentence.

Gillian Hulme, of Ubberley Road, Bentilee, Staffordshire, said she could not walk more than 20 yds (18.2m) and claimed £45,925 in disability benefits.

The 55-year-old made a legitimate claim for a back problem in May 1996.

But she admitted failing to notify a change of circumstances to the authorities between 2000 and 2010.

She was also ordered by judge Mark Eades at Stoke-on-Trent on Friday to complete 200 hours of community work.

The former hospital worker was filmed by an anti-fraud team while out on a five-mile run earlier last year.

It was later established she was a member of the women-only Potters Trotters Running Club in Stoke-on-Trent, as well as a local gym and a country club.

The mother-of-one had taken part in more than 50 events since joining the club the year before.

She took part in the half-marathon relay race with friends who did not know she was claiming disability benefits, the court heard.

Sentencing Hulme after watching the surveillance footage, Mr Eades said such offences undermined public confidence in the welfare state.

Many members of the public would feel "outrage" at the details of the case, he added, but he said he saw no reason not to follow guidelines allowing him to issue a suspended sentence in light of Hulme's previous good character.

He said: "Your life and your reputation is now publicly ruined.

'System undermined'

"You knew you were mobile - you were participating in a sports club and you knew perfectly well that what you were doing was utterly wrong.

"Disability Living Allowance is for those who require help from the state.

"It's for those who suffer misfortune, usually of a health nature, and it's a safety net provided by the state to ensure people who do suffer misfortune do not suffer deprivation in consequence.

"The whole system is undermined and its reputation damaged by people who dig into that fund of money when they are not entitled to it."

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said about the case: "Benefit thieves are costing the taxpayer almost one billion pounds each year.

"This money is intended to help those most in need and not to line the pockets of criminals."

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