There’s brazen, and then there’s brazen. On 24th February 2015, Paul White was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, with a condition of undertaking 300 hours unpaid work. There was also an order that he pay £2,500 costs.
Forty six year old Paul White had left the marines for medical reasons in 2001 due to a back injury. He was signed off sick by his doctor and later received a higher rate of pension due to chronic back pain. He was awarded the higher rate in 2003.
It is not clear whether he was lying at that stage, or if he had a dramatic improvement in his condition, but whilst the claim was ongoing he was clearly in a much better shape that he claimed.
As the Judge said, “You were working in seaborne security and as a bodyguard at the time you were claiming disability benefits but you were also playing golf and doing 10 kilometre runs in less than an hour. At the time you were maintaining the claim that you were only capable of walking 25 metres and that with the aid of a stick. The dishonesty went on for six years and was breathtaking.”
There are new(ish) guidelines for fraud sentencing (p27 for Benefit Fraud). These are not easy to use it is fair to say. We know that the value of it puts it right at the top end of Category 4. The Culpability is harder to say. It doesn’t really fit in with any of them, but given the flagrant dishonesty, it is probably fair to put it in the Higher Culpability bracket.
On this basis, and taking the very top of that box, the starting point is 2½ years so, after giving some credit for a plea of guilty (we are not sure whether it was full credit or not), the figure of 2 years can be explained. The decision to suspend is a separate one, and we don’t know the Judge’s reasons why.
Given that Mr White is not going to prison, we doubt that he would appeal it. On the face of it, the sentence of two years does seem a little high, and we would have thought that 18 months would be more appropriate. As said though, Mr White has little to complain about.