Police officer who claimed £150,000 in taxpayers’ money while telling bosses he was too injured to work was caught after his phone app tracked him walking 10,000 steps a day
- PC Matthew Littlefair claimed he was injured in minor car crash in October 2017
- He told Dorset Police the crash left him unable to work because of ‘chronic pain’
- Anti-corruption unit surveilled him ‘living a normal life’ including playing football
- Littlefair has been jailed for two years and three months for one count of fraud
- The court heard he had resigned from Dorset Police force after pleading guilty
A police officer has been jailed for defrauding his force out of £150,000 – after an app on his mobile phone showed he had been taking 10,000 steps a day while claiming he was too injured to work.
For more than two years, PC Matthew Littlefair claimed full pay and other benefits while ‘putting on an act’ that he was so badly hurt he ‘couldn’t even lift a kettle’ following a minor car crash.
But a covert surveillance operation was launched when colleagues became suspicious after spotting him out playing football with his children, walking his dog, jogging and riding bikes.
When investigators examined his phone they found he had repeatedly been recorded taking 10,000 steps a day – the equivalent of five miles – while claiming he was not able to work.
Investigators found he was ‘living a normal life’ and had attended a Bath rugby game as well as swinging an axe in his back garden.
When Littlefair was interviewed by police, he said he was able to exercise because he had been taking excess quantities of painkillers.
However, officers found four unopened bags of prescription drugs which had not been used while blood tests revealed no trace of the medication in his system.
Matthew Littlefair, 36, has been jailed for fraud after anti-corruption officers found he was able to play football, run and cycle despite claiming £150,000 while off injured from work in Dorset
Jailing the 36-year-old for two years and three months, a judge condemned Littlefair for his ‘arrogance’ and said his crime would damage public confidence in the police, comparing it to to the murder and rape of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan officer Wayne Couzens.
The case had come ‘during one of the worst years in recent policing history’, Judge Robert Pawson said.
Littlefair – who arrived at Salisbury Crown Court, Wilts, in a wheelchair – admitted a single charge of fraud by false representation.
Prosecutor Robin Leach told the court Littlefair had been a police officer since 2008, transferring to Dorset Police from Avon and Somerset in 2016.
However, while he was off duty in October 2017, Littlefair was in a car crash described in court as a ‘rear end shunt’.
Despite the relatively minor crash, the PC took himself to hospital complaining of pain and whiplash, the court heard.
Upon release from hospital he reported himself sick and unfit for duty.
When Dorset Police offered him reduced hours and the chance to work from home, Littlefair refused, complaining ‘he was in such severe pain he couldn’t carry out his tasks’.
Dorset Police found evidence Littlefair had been walking at least 10,000 steps a day while off
He was eventually offered ill health early retirement in September 2019 when the force judged he would never be able to fully return to the job.
But instead of accepting this payout he appealed, claiming ‘his pain was so serious that he wouldn’t be able to be employed ever again’.
Mr Leach said: ‘He complained of lasting injuries, chronic pain in most parts of his body and constant right knee pain so bad his knee could give way on him at any moment.’
The court heard Littlefair was visited regularly by Sergeant Tim Travers, who was his superior, and stayed in text contact with him.
He would often tell Sgt Travers there was ‘no change’ in his condition and when he came to visit he would mumble as if he was being affected by a cocktail of drugs.
In total while on sick leave he fraudulently claimed about £150,000 in wages, tax contributions and pension costs, the court heard.
Officers from Dorset Police (pictured) observed Littlefair running, cycling and playing football
In April and May 2020 a covert investigation was launched by Dorset Police’s Counter Corruption Unit, supervised by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Among other activities, surveillance officers caught Littlefair playing football with his children at their home in Alderholt, Hants, the court heard.
He was even seen exercising the same day he was visited by the professional standards department, who he told there was ‘no change’ in his condition and said he ‘couldn’t even pick up a kettle’.
The PC was suspended by the force in May 2020 and pleaded guilty to fraud in August of the same year.
The court heard doctors have diagnosed him with depression and a condition called Functional Neurological Disorder, which is why he requires a wheelchair.
Jailing him, Judge Pawson said the fact Littlefair was a serving police officer was an aggravating factor.
‘This case is during one of the worst years in recent policing history.
PC Littlefair, 36, was jailed for two years and three months at Salisbury Law Courts (pictured)
‘This year there has been a police officer dealt with for kidnap, rape and murder… two others this week were dealt with for taking photographs of a dead body and now this case – it’s of a far less offence – but it will affect public confidence in the police service.’
He added: ‘When Sergeant Travers visited, you repeatedly put on an act that there was no change in your condition. You showed a certain arrogance in your behaviour.’
Littlefair – who was accompanied to court by family members – was jailed for two years and three months and a proceeds of crime hearing will deal with repayments of the fraudulently obtained £149,764.
After sentencing Dorset Police revealed that since entering his guilty plea the PC has resigned from the force. He now faces formal misconduct proceedings.
Detective Inspector Darren Moores, of Dorset Police’s Counter Corruption Unit, said: ‘Police officers are publicly funded to protect the public and whilst the vast majority of police officers execute their duties with commitment and dedication, they are not above the law and it was wholly in the public’s interest to investigate Littlefair and bring him to justice for his deceit.’
Littlefair will face a proceeds of crime hearing to determine the repayments of the £150k
IOPC Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, said: ‘The actions of this former Dorset Police officer were not only deceitful and selfish, but have the potential to damage public trust and confidence in the police service.
‘Dorset Police rightly took this matter very seriously and after a referral from the force we decided to supervise their investigation into the conduct of Matthew Littlefair.
‘The former officer was found to have acted fraudulently in misrepresenting the extent of his injuries, and today’s outcome shows that such deceitful behaviour will not be tolerated. It will now be for the force to take forward appropriate misconduct proceedings.’
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