Ex-lawyer who could barely walk ‘pictured on model rail train’
COURT TOLD FORMER SOLICITOR ‘MADE FALSE BENEFIT CLAIMS’
A FORMER solicitor who was allegedly pictured sitting on a model train whilst claiming he was so unwell he could barely walk has gone on trial accused of benefit fraud.
Alan Blacker, 46, from Rochdale, claimed to be in so much pain that he could not walk more than 20 yards without help, struggled to stand in the shower and found it hard to cut up food, a court heard.
Between 1998 and 2016 he claimed Disability Living Allowance (DLA), claiming to be severely disabled and in extreme pain from a number of conditions, including fibromyalgia, spondylolisthesis and a heart murmur, the court was told.
But prosecutors say the former solicitor, who was struck off in 2016, was far more mobile than he claimed.
Mr Blacker has gone on trial accused of failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in his circumstances and dishonestly making statements about his physical capacity.
In one application for support, the jury was told, Mr Blacker wrote: “I cannot carry on a real life and everything is too much effort. I can’t do anything, I am in real pain.”
But opening the case for the prosecution at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court, Chloe Fordham told the court that evidence suggested that Mr Blacker’s issues with mobility were “nothing that came close” to what he suggested.
Witness John Breen, from the DWP in Blackpool, told the court that footage of Mr Blacker, and statements from witnesses, were “clearly at odds” with the claim he put in.
When asked about a photo supposedly of Mr Blacker sitting with children on a model railway train, Mr Breen, who stopped Mr Blacker’s benefits after an investigation in 2016, said: “He maintained it was a great effort to stand or get out of a chair, but he appeared to have no difficulty from the statements and pictures.”
Mr Breen was due to be cross examined by Mr Blacker’s defence yesterday. The Crown also called Victoria Hains, a clerk at Cardiff Crown Court.
Ms Hains told the jury she encountered Mr Blacker when he was working as a barrister on a trial she was assigned to in August 2014.
She said she did not remember him having any difficulties standing up or sitting down while he was cross-examining witnesses, nor having any problems standing during a visit to the scene of an accident, a trip which lasted between 30 minutes to an hour, during the trial.
Ms Hains said she recalled him asking the judge if he could take breaks during proceedings to take medication, but said that she only saw him take such a break on one occasion.
Representing Mr Blacker, Dominic D’souza asked Ms Hains if she was aware that when he had asked for the break, it was so he could take morphine due to the level of pain he was in. The witness said she was not aware of this.
The court also heard from a first-aid trainer, who led two courses attended by Mr Blacker in 2009 and 2011.
During the courses he was required to demonstrate CPR on a mannequin and put a patient into the recovery position, both of which Mr Blacker was said to have completed “without any trouble.”
Mr Blacker, of Milk Street, Rochdale, denies both charges against him.
The defence has yet to outline its case.
Former lawyer Alan Blacker denies making false statements in his application for disability benefits