Ballyhornan couple feigned illness to claim state benefits

Ballyhornan couple feigned illness to claim state benefits

11 September 2011

A BALLYHORNAN couple who exaggerated their health problems to get more benefits have been given suspended prison sentences.

Terence and Anne-Marie Toal were caught out when fraud investigators mounted an undercover probe of claims they had problems walking and were constantly in pain

Downpatrick District Court heard on Monday that 56-year-old Terence Toal claimed Disability Living Allowance for back and leg pain and depression.

He claimed he had discomfort walking, difficulty standing and needed a walking stick. But he was seen on seven occasions in 2009 carrying out activities such as driving and walking freely and unaided for a much longer distance than he claimed.

During interview he agreed his condition had improved a year earlier and later handed back his mobility car.

Ann Marie Toal (55) was also claiming Disability Living Allowance for fibromyalgia, asthma and high blood pressure.

She claimed she had difficulty walking, could not drive without falling asleep, could not reach above her head and had problems dressing.

She was observed on six occasions walking without difficulty. She was seen to be shopping, reaching to high and low shelves.

She had also been working as a care assistance since 2007 and her employer was not aware of her disabilities. She no longer received the benefit, the court was told.

A defence barrister for the Toals, of Ardglass Road, said they are not in perfect health and did not seek to “scam the authorities”.

He said Ann Marie Toal was seen walking about shops and on “daily business”. He referred to their previously clear records and said they are “otherwise perfectly law-abiding citizens”.

The barrister said Terence Toal had been a “very hard and regular worker” and had suffered serious back problems for the last 20 years.

Deputy District Judge Brian Archer told the pair: “In these harsh times you are stealing from tax payers and your own community.”

He ordered Terence Toal pay £120 costs and Anne-Marie Toal was ordered to pay £52 costs.