South East Wales

Golf champ Alan Bannister guilty of £26k benefit fraud

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Media captionThe video that exposed Alan Bannister as he played golf

A champion golfer who said he was too ill to walk but played the sport regularly has been found guilty of a £26,000 benefit fraud.

Alan Bannister, 56, of Barry, claimed a higher rate disability living allowance after exaggerating the severity of his arthritis, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

He claimed his chronic arthritis left him in constant pain and he struggled to walk and lift a saucepan.

But secret video footage showed him completing 18 holes in four hours.

His trial heard the former mechanical engineer made a claim for more benefits after he quit work on health grounds and saw his income halved.

As well as getting a benefit payment usually reserved for people who cannot walk, he was also given a car - which he drove to golf tournaments.

Bannister told the court he had been advised to play golf by his doctors and maintained he had not claimed anything he was not entitled to.

'Misrepresented capabilities'

On his claim form for increased benefits, he said his difficulties had got worse and he needed help getting dressed and cooking food.

But that same year he joined the 18-hole St Andrews Major Golf Club in Dinas Powys - and soon racked up some impressive scores on the course.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Alan Bannister insisted he had not claimed for anything he was not entitled to

He won the club's championship and also lifted a number of other trophies.

Bannister claimed he had "good days and bad days" and golf helped ease his pain.

"I would have ended up in a wheelchair if I did not take up golf. I'm more exhausted not playing golf. Am I a freeloader? No," he said.

In 2012, the DWP received an anonymous tip-off, prompting officials to investigate Bannister.

Footage filmed by officers showed Bannister holding a golf bag with one hand and appearing to have no trouble raising clubs above his head.

In his closing address Mr McLeese, prosecuting, said: "Is this someone out for a leisurely stroll while playing a game of golf on a Saturday morning? Or is this a man virtually unable to walk?"

"He misrepresented enormously his true capabilities."

A jury found Bannister guilty of obtaining money transfers by deception after making false representations.

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