Lochside Garage

Prison for man in £9,000 travel expenses racket

South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen

A LOCAL man has been handed a four month prison sentence after being convicted of defrauding the Western Trust out of over £9,000 by claiming false travel expenses.
Vincent Barlow (53), of Blunnick Road, Florencecourt appeared at Enniskillen Magistrates Court on Monday for sentencing after being charged with fraud by false representation and resisting police.
Barlow was accused that between January 21st 2013 and April 16th 2015, he dishonestly claimed expenses from the Western Trust for taxi journeys from his home in Florencecourt to South West Acute Hospital.
At a contested court hearing last month, it emerged that during this time, the defendant was availing of the Hospital Travel Cost Scheme, which reimburses patients who use taxis to attend health services. Barlow was attending SWAH on a weekly basis, amounting to around 250 journeys over the two years by presenting receipts from a taxi firm in Lisburn called Catch-a-Cab, and from a driver called Barry Richardson. The court heard that a complaint had been made by the Western Trust that Barlow had been claiming false travel expenses to the value of £9,083.
On December 2nd, 2015 around 3.15pm two police officers were on patrol in Florencecourt, when they met a dark coloured Mercedes, which they believed to be linked to Vincent Barlow. Barlow was arrested and advised that he would be given street bail to go to the police station the next day. Barlow then became agitated, rang 999 and became abusive to the operator before the call was terminated. Barlow then asked to be taken to the police station but forcibly resisted.
Raymond McCormick, owner of Catch-a-Cab taxi firm in Lisburn, gave evidence explaining that Barry Richardson had left the firm around January 2014 adding he had checked his log sheets and he had no record of a driver travelling to Enniskillen saying ‘it wouldn’t be a job that they would get every day.’
Defending barrister Ciaran Roddy said his client’s offence carried high culpability: “This travel scheme was capable of being exploited and Mr Barlow did that. He is a man of limited means and not in a position to make recompense. He suffers from a very complex psychiatric condition and a complex post-traumatic disorder and attends hospital due to his complex psychiatric needs. He has been on a significant amount of medication since 2009 and has been advised to cease driving. A period of immediate custody would have a drastic effect on Mr Barlow’s emotional well-being.”
However District Judge Nigel Broderick said, “Given the significant amount of money involved and the fact that the defendant decided to plead not guilty, a custodial sentence is merited.”
Barlow was sentenced to four months imprisonment for fraud and a concurrent one month sentence for resisting police. The case was adjourned until April 10th and Barlow was released on bail of £500 with leave to appeal the sentence.

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