A FORMER soldier who was injured in a training exercise exaggerated his disability in order to fraudulently claim benefits.

Paul Dewhirst, aged 46, from Astley, was pensioned out of the Army in May 1994 and applied for a range of benefits.

Bolton Crown Court heard that in 2014 he was also granted unemployment supplement, claiming he had great difficulty getting up stairs, needed his wife and children’s help with personal care and his disability meant that he had been unable to work since 2011.

But Jonathan Savage, prosecuting, said that, in March 2015, the Department of Work and Pensions and the Veterans’ Agency began a joint investigation after receiving information that Dewhirst was involved in a valeting business and a company hiring out bouncy castles. Surveillance was carried out in April 2016.

“The defendant was seen moving around without impairment, unloading heavy items from his garage, sweeping up outside and carrying out repair works on the property,” said Mr Savage.

Dewhirst, who appeared in court on crutches, has now been reassessed as having a lower level of disability. Judge Martin Walsh was told that he had claimed £30,000 he was not entitled to.

Dewhirst pleaded guilty to failing to notify change in circumstances.

Stuart Neale, defending, said the defendant was of previous good character and is paying the money back.

Judge Walsh sentenced Dewhirst to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months and ordered him to participate in 16 days of rehabilitation activities.