Ex-soldier’s false claims for £18,000

A FORMER soldier falsely claimed nearly £18,000 worth of benefits to cope with drinking and gambling debts, a court heard.

Michael Robertshaw, 56, failed to declare his Armed Forces pension when filling in forms for housing and council tax benefits from 2004 to last year.

It is the second such case to be heard by Calderdale magistrates in weeks after former Illingworth soldier Rodney Carr – a friend of Robertshaw – admitted falsely claiming £6,500 in the same way.

The court heard Robertshaw joined the Army aged 17 and served in Northern Ireland and the Falklands before he was discharged in 1985 with post-traumatic stress disorder.

His condition means he cannot work so he gets incapacity benefit.

He began receiving pension payments of £238 per month in 2003, but deliberately withheld the information.

The court heard it gained him council tax benefit worth £3719.12 and housing benefit worth £14,080.73 over the six years.

Zara Pedelty, prosecuting for Calderdale Council, said: “This was money taken out of the public purse and an unnecessary strain on the council’s already stretched budget.”

On his arrest, the court heard Robertshaw told officers: “I hold my hands up to it. I knew I would get caught eventually.”

Miss Pedelty said: “He said he was just glad it was all over and now he could just stop waiting for a knock at the door.”

Robertshaw admitted 18 counts of making a false statement.

Kieron Green, mitigating, said the post-traumatic stress disorder had left his client alcoholic and debt-ridden from gambling.

Mr Green said: “His life was falling apart. There is no way any of this was aimed to fund a lavish lifestyle - quite the contrary.

“This is a relief for him, because he was living a lie for a number of years and in a way it’s a very sad. “He served for many years in the Army and saw quite a lot of distressing things. He came out with an illness and things deteriorated from then.”

Robertshaw, of Arncliffe Crescent, Rastrick, began paying back the benefits he falsely claimed before the case came to court.

Magistrates sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year. They also imposed a three-month curfew between 8pm and 8am and ordered him to pay £260 in costs.

Rodney Carr, 48, was given a 12-week curfew between 6pm and 6am when he was sentenced last month.