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Sheriff slams ‘car crash’ DWP and puts off £11k Angus disability benefit court case

Forfar Sheriff Court.
Forfar Sheriff Court.

Benefits bosses have been slated by a sheriff over their “car crash” preparation of a criminal court case.

Jake Sutherland from Forfar had been due to face trial at the town’s sheriff court on Monday, accused of claiming a total of £11,642 of benefits to which he was not entitled between October 2014 and August 2017.

The 63-year-old, of the town’s Gallowshade Road is alleged to have obtained Disability Living Allowance high rate mobility and low rate care components after failing to tell Department of Work and Pensions officials of an improvement in his health which allowed him to undertake full-time work during the period of the alleged crime.

However, Sheriff Gregor Murray was faced with a motion by the Crown to adjourn the trial after confusion emerged over documents in the case and the late submission of a video interview with the accused.

Sheriff Murray said the current climate had seen criticism of the Crown for delays in bringing cases to court and he expressed anger over the DWP’s presentation of evidence.

He summoned a key DWP witness into the court room to register his frustration over the late call-off.

He hit out: “Any case of this nature involves a large degree of documentary evidence and I am told the forms do not match up with the production numbers.

“What happens in a case such as this is a car crash. This case has been on the go for eight months and we have managed to make no progress whatsoever.

“I am also told that it is only today a disc of the interview with the accused has been lodged – why on earth is that the case?”

The sheriff added: “There is a duty of disclosure on the part of the Crown in any criminal case which means the accused and the person representing them is entitled to see any documentation available.

“I am having to put off this case because you failed to lodge that disc. If your training doesn’t involve that then please take that back to those responsible for your training.

“Quite frankly, the information I have been given suggests the responsibility lies with your department. Make sure that does not happen again.”

Defence solicitor Brian Bell said: “It comes down to an issue of the extent of the disability the accused has.”

Sheriff Murray continued the case until October 28 and excused Sutherland from having to attend court on that date.

“I can see that none of this is your fault,” he told the accused.

A DWP spokesperson said it was not appropriate to comment on live court proceedings.

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