England

Army reservist doctor claimed disability benefits

Sandra Turnbull Image copyright PA
Image caption Sandra Turnbull joined an Army Reserve unit in 2006

A doctor who claimed disability benefits worth more than £22,000 while volunteering as an army reservist has been given a 12-month community order.

Sandra Turnbull told benefit officers she could not walk a step "without pain", but was winched out of a helicopter during a training exercise.

Newcastle Crown Court also heard she was observed walking considerable distances while working at hospitals.

The 45-year-old was sentenced after admitting three benefit fraud charges.

The hearing was told Ms Turnbull, who had a genuine hip complaint, had claimed disability living allowance for ten years.

However, during that time she worked 40 hours a week on shifts for Middlesbrough's James Cook University Hospital, Newcastle General Hospital and County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust.

'Old-fashioned dishonesty'

In 2006, she joined an Army Reserve unit, the 201 Northern Field Hospital, and was deemed fit for combat.

During a training exercise she played the part of a casualty and was winched in and out of a RAF Sea King helicopter.

She also tried to complete a six-mile march with a rifle and 15 kilos strapped to her back, although she did not complete it.

The judge at Newcastle Crown Court said: "You are an educated and intelligent woman who has got secure and well-paid employment.

"These are not offences of oversight or mistake, but plain old-fashioned dishonesty."

Her barrister, Richard Herrmann, said she had suffered "significant health problems" due to her hip, but had not disclosed the "full picture" to the Department for Work and Pensions.

He said: "Effectively, by this course of conduct, this defendant is going to lose everything she has worked for for 15 years.

"She is suspended, she will be put before the General Medical Council and one can fairly readily anticipate the outcome from a conviction like this, although it is not certain."

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