End of hospice fund-raiser’s benefits trial

Maxine Armstrong
Maxine Armstrong

A hospice worker’s ordeal after being accused of benefit fraud appears to be over.

The case of Maxine Armstrong, who is an employee at Wigan and Leigh Hospice (WLH), is listed for a mention today in front of a judge at Liverpool Crown Court but the defendant does not have to attend.

It is also understood that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has written to her employer explaining the case will not be taken further.

A jury last month failed to agree on a verdict after being asked to consider whether Ms Armstrong, from Hindley Green, dishonestly failed to notify a change in her circumstances to the DWP.

It was expected that the parties would return to court today to fix a date for a re-trial but it now appears that will not be the case, although this was not officially confirmed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Abandoning the case will still have to be formally done at the crown court in front of a judge and would not require the attendance of the defendant.

Ms Armstrong, of Bank-
hall Close, started working at WLH as a volunteer before becoming a paid fund-raiser, but is currently on long-term sick leave from the Hindley-based charity.

The jury last month heard the 48-year-old was awarded Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2003 after claiming she experienced pain when walking and needed between 10 and 15 minutes to walk around 150 metres.

The prosecution had alleged that Ms Armstrong, who drove a BMW convertible paid for with her motability allowance, was later seen dancing, taking part in charity walks and carrying heavy items unaided.

However, the jury could not decide whether this amounted to her acting dishonestly in failing to notify a change in circumstances to the DWP between May 2009 and October 21, 2014.

Ms Armstrong, who had entered a not guilty plea to take the matter to crown court trial, was remanded on bail until today’s listing.

Ms Armstrong told the court her condition had not improved but she had managed to cope with it better.

Medical records showed she has undergone various operations and medical procedures including a partial knee replacement and having one of her ankles fused, and complained of knee, feet and ankle pain.

The Wigan Evening Post attempted to contact Ms Armstrong but was unsuccessful. Several approaches to the CPS for a statement clarifying the situation went unanswered.