Dodgy DJ spared jail for £13k benefit fraud

Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham, where Lowery worked as a DJ

Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham, where Lowery worked as a DJ

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A DISC jockey at a renowned hotel was playing the fiddle as well as the hits as he fraudulently claimed benefits totalling more than £13,000.

DJ Paul Lowery spun the discs at Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham City, two nights a week.

But his special request was dishonestly claiming government Access to Work grants aimed at allowing him employ a support worker to carry his disco gear.

Lowery did have serious hand, back and neck problems which stopped him from lifting his discs – but he had bought wheeled equipment, meaning the help was no longer needed.

The fraud continued from November 2009 until October 2012 and was only thwarted following a covert surveillance operation, Durham Crown Court heard.

Footage from a hidden camera showed Lowery was able to work without support and hotel staff confirmed he generally worked alone, Susan Hirst, prosecuting for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), said.

In November 2012, Lowery, suspicious he was being investigated, called the scheme administrators to admit he had stopped using a supporter worker that February.

In interview, he admitted he had bought the wheeled equipment back in 2009.

Lowery, of Greenacres Road, Consett, County Durham, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud totalling £13,611.92.

The self-employed DJ earns up to £200 a week from his work but is on the brink of bankruptcy, the court heard.

Lee Fish, mitigating, said he fears losing his home but hopes to keep his job at Ramside Hall.

Mr Fish emphasised the original support claim had been legitimate.

Sentencing, Judge Christopher Prince told Lowery he had stolen from the public purse and would have to repay the whole amount.

To date, £750 has been repaid.

“We have a system. People who can afford to do so pay into a fund and that fund can be distributed to those who need it. There are people who need that support,” Judge Prince said.

Lowery was sentenced to four weeks in prison, but the term was suspended for 12 months, meaning he walked free from court.

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