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Caught on the hop: The disability claimant videoed Morris dancing

A FORMER school teacher has been convicted of cheating the taxpayer out of almost £30,000 in disability benefits - after he was caught on film Morris dancing.

Allan Baldwin said he could barely walk and claimed the highest rate of disability living allowance over a six-year period.

However, the 67-year-old pensioner was caught out when video footage emerged of him taking part in an energetic performance of the traditional English dance, while wielding handkerchiefs and performing two twirls.

As part of the investigation it was also established that various events the Cumbria-based Solway Morris Group took part in would have involved him walking for several miles.

Although his role with the club was primarily to play a melodeon, the video footage proved that he also took part in dancing. An existing member of the group said yesterday that Baldwin had left around 18 months ago and admitted: "He did do the odd dance."

Baldwin, who taught at Annan Academy in Dumfries and Galloway and now lives in Lockerbie, falsely claimed more than £28,000 in disability benefits between 2008 and 2013.

He was sentenced to a nine-month suspended jail sentence at Preston Crown Court in Lancashire yesterday, with the prison term likely to be activated if he commits any further offences in the next year-and-a-half.

Baldwin, who will also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and must pay back the cash he fraudulently obtained, had admitted benefit fraud last month after being confronted with the damning clip.

It was not his first brush with the law. Early last year, he was convicted at Selkirk Sheriff Court in the Borders of falsely claiming more than £20,000 in pension credit and almost £10,000 in housing and council tax benefit. He committed the offences in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, and Selkirk between July 2007 and August 2011 before moving briefly to England.

Speaking in 2011, while claiming the disability benefits, he made an appeal for new members to join the Morris dancing group in a local newspaper in Cumbria, saying: "Morris dancing is very social and is a good way to keep fit."

The previous year, he was quoted in the same newspaper, speaking about the strenuous physical demands of his hobby. Then researching for a PhD in traditional English dance at university in Dumfries, he said he responded to hecklers by saying "come and have a go if you think you're fit enough".

Jane Baker, fraud investigation manager for the Department for Work and Pensions, said: "It is our duty to ensure that benefit payments go to those who really need them and we are committed to cracking down on those who play the system. Our welfare reforms are vital to close the gaps that cheats take advantage of.

"It is unfair that some people get support when they do not have a disability, while many people depend on the benefits system to provide a safety net. Deliberately not informing us of a change in your condition that may affect your claim is a crime. Don't wait for our fraud investigators to find you. Tell us of a change now."

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