Devon

'Wrong leg' fraud case dropped at Exeter Crown Court

A man accused of benefits fraud has had his prosecution dropped because the investigations looked at the wrong leg.

Robert Punter, 63, from Devon, said his disability benefits claim was based on injuries to his left leg.

He was taken to Exeter Crown Court because authorities believed he was claiming for his right foot, he said.

In court, prosecutors did not offer evidence. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said pursuing the case was not in the public interest.

Leg amputated

Mr Punter, a former lorry driver from Newton Abbot, had received £28,000 in disability allowance over a 12-year period.

He had claimed based on an injury to his left leg, which was shattered in a shotgun accident. The leg was amputated in January.

The DWP began prosecution proceedings on the basis that he had claimed benefits in relation to an injury to his right foot, which had been treated for a severe toe injury.

Officials found a letter in his medical file showing he had made a full recovery from an operation to that leg.

Mr Punter had denied falsely claiming disability living allowance, adding he had been working from the age of 15 to 63.

'Nightmare' case

The case was dropped after his solicitor obtained a statement from a hospital consultant confirming Mr Punter had always suffered from a disability which entitled him to benefits.

Mr Punter said the issue had "been a nightmare" and added that it was "such a relief" when the case was dropped.

He said: "The stress it has been causing us. I had to give my job up last September, and all this [dealing with the amputation] has been going on at the same time."

Mr Punter praised his solicitor and the CPS barrister who decided to drop the case, saying: "At least someone was listening to us at last."

The DWP said its fraud investigators presented the best evidence possible and it was ultimately for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether to proceed with a prosecution.

It added that the case had been dropped "in light of his [Mr Punter's] deteriorating health".

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