Joan Lesley Clarke faked letters from a specialist at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (Picture: Merseyside Police/SWNS)
A woman who claimed almost £23,000 of benefits by lying to the Department for Work and Pensions about having cancer has been jailed.
Joan Lesley Clarke kept up her ruse for more than three years – and even maintained she had terminal cancer to the court after being caught.
Between March 2016 and April 2019, she claimed £22,962.27 by filling out forms asserting she was unfit to work due to terminal ovarian cancer, and was undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and taking medication.
Clarke also wrote fake letters supposedly from consultants at Clatterbridge, a leading cancer centre in Wirral, Merseyside, to back up her claims.
The 62-year-old admitted three charges of fraud by false representation, four of making an article for use in fraud and one of possessing criminal property.
Prosecutor Gareth Roberts said she had pleaded guilty to all charges two weeks before her trial was due to start.
He said Clarke’s deception had started in January 2016, when she submitted an application to the DWP for benefits due to being ‘unfit for work’ – including a falsified note from a Clatterbridge specialist.
In August and September 2016, she submitted personal independence payments (PIP) review documents stating she had terminal ovarian cancer, and in January 2018 she sent another one brazenly claiming her disease was worsening.
She was only caught following a tip-off to the DWP, which was investigated by their fraud team.
Clarke was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court (Picture: Liverpool Echo)
When interviewed under caution in 2019, she again lied about having terminal cancer and said it had spread to her spine.
Clarke, from St Helens in Merseyside, even forced the rearrangement of a subsequent interview by claiming she had to go into hospital for treatment.
She was unable to provide documents proving what she had told the DWP about her illness, and when investigators contacted Clatterbridge directly, they were told the consultant named by Clarke in the letters had previously retired.
Her medical records later confirmed she did not have cancer and had never undergone treatment for cancer.
David Polglase, defending, said the fraud had been carried out due to Clarke’s ‘desire to help’ her son with drug addiction, and added she was ashamed as a member of her family had died after suffering from leukaemia.
Sentencing Clarke to ten months in jail, Judge David Aubrey KC said the case had meant ‘highly pressurised’ staff at Clatterbridge had to take time out to prepare statements or investigate matters.
He said: ‘This was all a waste of time, while no doubt they were all responsible for patients who were dying.’
The judge added: ‘In essence, it can be stated very, very simply – you did not fortunately have cancer, you did not and have not got a chronic condition, but you did maintain throughout and dishonestly that you did.
‘Even when evidence was obtained from Clatterbridge that you were not suffering from cancer, you continued to purport that you did when specifically asked.
‘That was a lie, and an endeavour to pull the wool over the court’s eye.
‘In my judgement, these are extremely serious offences, and regrettably, you appear to have a dishonest vein running all the way through your body. You are a fraudster.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Joan Lesley Clarke maintained she had terminal ovarian cancer for more than three years.