A one-legged man was falsely accused of fiddling disability benefit after officials examined his wrong leg. Robert Punter has undergone a nightmare year of anxiety after being taken to court by benefits officials who told him he was not disabled enough to claim the allowance even though he was having his leg amputated. The mix up occurred because the 63-year-old ex trucker, whose left leg was shattered in a boyhood shotgun accident, also suffered a serious toe injury in his right foot.
He was prosecuted when officials found a letter in his medical file showing he had made a full recovery from this operation and accused him of lying about his condition. He is angry that he has been treated as a dole fiddler despite battling to overcome his disability and working for 47 years, often in excruciating pain. Robert, of Newton Abbot, Devon, spent months waiting for his case to be heard at Exeter Crown Court before it was thrown out in less than five minutes.
He denied falsely claiming disability living allowance and Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, recorded not guilty verdicts after Miss Emily Pitts offered no evidence on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. He was wheeled into court by his wife Jean with a white bandage covering the stump of his left leg, which was amputated in January. The judge allowed him to remain in the well of the court because he could not get into the dock.
The case was dropped after defence solicitor Miss Ann Bellchambers obtained a statement from Torbay Hospital consultant Mr Patrick Loxdale confirming that Robert had always suffered from a disability which entitled him to benefit. The consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Torbay Hospital who wrote to Exeter Crown Court about Robert Punter said the prosecution was 'barking mad'. A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said:"We cannot comment on individual cases."