A MAN who defrauded a hospital travel scheme out of £9,083 has had a four month prison sentence suspended on appeal, although a judge has remarked incarceration was “richly deserved”.
Vincent John Barlow (54) of Blunnick Road, Florencecourt used falsified receipts contending to have taken taxi journeys to medical appointments, which he then claimed back from the Western Health & Social Care Trust.
Between 21 January 2013 and 16 April 2015, Barlow falsely claimed £9,083 – none of which has been repaid.
Having been first charged, he denied the offence which was heard as a contest at Enniskillen Magistrates Court earlier this year.
Barlow had availed of the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme which reimburses patients using taxis to attend appointments at South West Acute Hospital.
As he had regular appointments, Barlow ran up over 250 journeys, then presented receipts from a Lisburn-based taxi company.
But Barlow was in fact driving himself to appointments.
The Western Health & Social Care Trust became suspicious and reported the matter to police.
On the afternoon of 2 December 2015, a police patrol detected Barlow driving a dark-coloured Mercedes and arrested him.
He was ‘street-bailed’ to attend with police the following day for interview in respect of alleged fraud.
The contest heard from the Lisburn taxi-company owner who having checked the firm’s logs, found no entries for journeys relating to Enniskillen.
It transpired Barlow had been given a bundle of taxi receipts from a driver who had worked for the Lisburn company but left several years beforehand.
The judge on that occasion said, “Given the significant amount of money involved and the fact the defendant chose to plead not guilty, a custodial sentence is merited.”
He handed down a four month prison sentence, which Barlow immediately launching an appeal.
That was heard today at Dungannon County Court where a defence barrister pointed out the offence was now fully accepted and only the sentence was under appeal.
Highlighting a number of reports on Barlow’s complex medical issues, he said, “It will come as no surprise, I am asking the court to suspend the prison term, given my client’s ill-health.”
The defence added Barlow was willing to try to reimburse the funds, but is currently paying off court fines for other matters and said, “He is not a man of means.”
Judge Stephen Fowler QC allowed the appeal, saying, “This was a serious offence, but in light of the difficulties with ill-health – and only because of that – I will suspend the prison term you richly deserve.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition