Six months in prison for benefits fraudster

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A former Bicester man has been sentenced to six months in prison after fraudulently claiming almost £23,000 in benefits despite having more than £123,000 in the bank.

Robert James Wills, 60, a former resident of Lawrence Way, was sentenced at Oxford Crown Court last week following his conviction for benefit fraud on July 10.

The unusual trial saw Wills sack his defence solicitors halfway through the process, and also claim he was going to call the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, as a witness.

Wills had pleaded not guilty to charges of being in possession of capital in excess of the threshold for claiming benefits. But the jury, following a 13-day trial, found him guilty of all four charges.

Councillor Ken Atack, Cherwell District Council’s lead member for finance, said: “The benefit system is there to support those who are in genuine financial need.

“Mr Wills’ imprisonment should serve as a warning that the benefit system is there to aid people in need and anyone who tries to defraud the system will face severe penalties.”

The prosecution followed a joint investigation by Cherwell District Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The court heard Wills had failed to speak with investigators at his home address and again following arrest at interview under caution.

Investigators had by now established Wills had bank accounts in excess of £123,000.

A prosecution was deemed to be in the public interest after it was found Wills had fraudulently obtained Housing Benefit of £11,693, Council Tax Benefit of £418 from both councils, and Income Support of £10,781.35 from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Summonses were issued but Wills failed to attend court in February last year.

He was arrested again, and brought before the court in April last year when he pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A committal hearing was arranged last June, where Wills failed to agree any of the evidence put to him.

Wills, who at one point claimed he was too weak to walk from a police car to the courtroom, absconded to Bath mid-trial and had to be re-arrested and brought back to Oxford.

The delays are said to have cost the public thousands of pounds. A restraint order is in place on Wills’ accounts and a confiscation hearing is due to obtain a full recovery from his savings.