Benefit cheat who claimed she couldn't walk unaided caught on camera showing dogs at Crufts

Will Metcalfe

This dog lover was caught out as a benefit after claiming she could barely walk despite being caught on camera running around an exhibition ring.

Linda Avery was filmed by the Department for Work and Pensions exhibiting a collie despite pocketing the highest rate of disability benefit, a court heard.

She came to the attention of investigators after posting pictures on Facebook of her at Crufts.

Investigators then tailed the 57-year-old to another dog show where they filmed her lifting and preparing dogs for the ring.

Plymouth Crown Court heard she received more than £12,000 to which she wasn’t entitled over two years.

Linda Avery was caught on camera by DWP officers who launched an investigation after she posted pictures of her at Crufts (SWNS)
She has been ordered to repay more than £12,000 she received fraudulently. (SWNS)

Avery, of Plymouth, Devon, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify an improvement in her condition affecting her claim for Disability Living Allowance between October 2014 and July 2016.

On Tuesday she was handed a 12-month community order including 20 rehabilitation activity days and 100 hours unpaid work, by Judge James Townsend.

The court also heard the case will be subject to a proceeds of crime act hearing where the DWP will seek to reclaim the money Avery illegally acquired.

A probe is understood to have been launched after she posted a picture on Facebook of her showing a dog at Crufts.

Avery could be seen running around the ring with a dog despite claiming she would stumble when using sticks. (SWNS)

Investigators then filmed her exhibiting at Paignton Dog Show in Devon.

The video – which has now been released by the DWP shows Avery brushing her dog on a table, before lifting it off and running around a paddock with the dog on a lead.

Judith Constable, prosecuting, said Avery claimed the higher rate for the mobility element of DLA from 2014

On her application Avery claimed to walk with a frame or sticks and tended to stumble, and need help seven days a week.

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But Miss Constable said investigators saw a picture showing Avery exhibiting at Crufts in 2015.

Ali Rafati, for Avery, said she had paid back just under £2,000 since last February and disputed the sum owed.

He added: “She failed to notify improvements in her health and that resulted her receiving the higher rate benefit to which she would not have been entitled.”

Speaking after the case a DWP spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from the people who need it.”