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22 June 2011, 09:48
An agoraphobic who claimed so much benefits he ran an illegal loans business has escaped a benefits fraud trial.
Colin Watson was let off because he was scared to leave his house, the 62 year old set himself up as a money lender using £86,000 paid to him by the taxpayer over 6 years,
He began lending spare cash to friends because he could not bear to leave his Middlesbrough home to spend it.
He has been cleared of all four charges against him by Judge Peter Fox at Teesside Crown Court.
Prosecutors abandoned their case as they could find no practical way to hold a trial.
Watson, of Ripley Court, Brambles Farm, denied any wrongdoing but has never entered pleas or appeared in court.
He faced two counts of lending money without a consumer credit licence, one of operating a money lending business without a licence and one of concealing criminal property, between January 2007 and August 2009.
Prosecutor Brian Russell told the court the case raised questions about the UK benefits system.
At a previous hearing, he said:
'He accepts that he does lend money.
'The fact is, he receives an extraordinary amount of public money as a result of his various conditions - benefits. They've been checked and checked and checked. He receives this money legitimately. But it's far in excess of his physical needs because he never gets out.
'That's obviously why he has the money to lend. This case may raise questions about the way this country delivers its benefits system.'
Watson earned £1,200 a month in benefits including income support and disability living allowance, but had monthly outgoings of £350.
Police said just one person was charged interest.
Judge Fox, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, said the situation was 'unsatisfactory' but he understood.
He formally found Watson not guilty on all charges.