Child abuse victim denies £33k fraud
Child abuse victim denies £33k fraud. By Matt Withers, Daily Post A NORTH Wales child abuse scandal victim fraudulently claimed around £33,000 in benefits despite having up to £40,000 in the bank, a court heard yesterday.Steven Messham told benefits bosses he had little or no savings while tens of thousands of pounds – much of it compensation for the abuse he suffered – lay in eight different accounts.The 42-year-old, from Buckley, Flint-shire, set up North Wales Abuse Survivors after giving evidence to the inquiry into the Waterhouse scandal in the 1990s.But Warrington Crown Court heard yesterday he continued to draw income support, housing and council tax benefits despite his savings.He has pleaded not guilty to five counts of falsifying accounts.His defence rests on whether or not he knew he had to declare the cash, which varied from £25,000 to £40,000 during the period in question – 1995-2000.Messham, of Llys Bedw, Buckley, insists he thought compensation and life assurance was not taken into account.The money came from life assurance for his wife, who died in 1992, along with compensation for the abuse he suffered and also for a later attack on his home.The charges relate to five separate incidents of benefit forms being falsely filled in. Three were to the Benefits Agency, one to Flintshire council and one to the old Delyn council.On three of the occasions, he said he had no savings. Once he admitted to having £150, and once £500.Each time he had tens of thousands of pounds in his accounts.The court heard the amounts received and the savings he had were not in dispute. The issue was whether Messham meant to defraud the agencies.Opening the prosecution case, Andrew Thomas said: “Isn’t it perfectly obvious to anyone – you, me, even the defendant – that if you are asked whether you have any savings, and you have £40,000 in banks, you would say something?”.The jury should not be influenced by Messham’s sad past, he added.”It’s easy to have sympathy for him given the difficulty he’s had, but what-ever’s gone on in the past, it doesn’t entitle him to play a get out of jail card when he’s found out making fraudulent claims,” he said..Evidence was heard from Fiona Harris and Elizabeth Hughes from the Department of Work and Pensions.Both conceded benefit regulations could be difficult to understand.Mrs Hughes said money received as compensation for a criminal offence could be considered “disregarded capital” – that is, it would not affect the claimant’s benefits.The fact Messham had received cash he was not entitled to came to light in December 2001.The hearing continues today with Simon Warlock expected to open the defence case.