The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was ‘clawing back‘ so much money from a family of six that the disabled father committed a string of armed robberies to stop them losing their home. Now, he’s been jailed for five years. He stole a total of around £230.
A “wrangle” with the DWP
As Chronicle Live reported, Andrew Robinson lives with osteoarthritis in his knees.
His educational attainment should be irrelevant. But the court heard he was a former boarding school pupil, “star” rugby player and graduate. Then, his “prospects crumbled” due to his illness. After what Chronicle Live called a “wrangle” with the DWP, it reduced his family’s benefits from £200 a week to just £93.
The Centre for Research in Social Policy has a questionnaire that works out the ‘minimum income standard’ people should have. It says for a family of six with two children at primary school and two at secondary school, the amount is £961.74 a week. This is based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research [pdf, p1] into a “socially acceptable living standard”. The government, meanwhile, is evasive about the amount it legally has to give people to live on.
Robinson, desperate for help, had gone to Citizens Advice and even wrote to his MP. But seemingly no one came to his family’s aid.
A family in “desperate need”
So on 15 March, he walked into a local Nisa shop armed with a hammer. He threatened staff into handing over around £80. Then, on 23 March, he did the same in a Shell garage but with an imitation firearm. He got around £150 in cash and goods. Finally, later that day, he attempted to rob a third store with a hammer, but the owner chased him off.
All this for £230.
His lawyer told Newcastle Crown Court:
[Robinson] just completely reached the end of his tether. He didn’t know what to do and how he was going to stave off the eviction.
He was doing it to try and support his wife and four children, who were in desperate need.
While the judge said he felt “sympathy” for Robinson, he also had to think of the “impact” on his victims:
It is terribly sad…
You are someone who has worked hard until you suffered knee problems.
You had serious money problems… and were receiving very limited… benefits as a result of a clawback from the DWP.
The judge sentenced Robinson to five years in prison.
Social media reacts
Reactions to Robinson’s case on Twitter were telling:
I fear there will be more of this as some folk are getting desperate and DWP just don't care ……………
— dancingbrave1986 (@joebloggsuk1) June 10, 2018
I think I would of done similar if I was going to starve and my wife and four kids faced eviction. Dwp pushed him over the edge of what must seem like to him a venomous snake pit
— Mark Mcdermott (@MarkmcdermottM) June 10, 2018
The judge is right – it IS terribly sad. Talk about circumstances. The same ones that meant people used to steal bread and get deported to Australia in the 1800s. What he did was wrong but borne out of utter desperation. Poor guy.
— Helen Nonny No (@NonnyHay) June 10, 2018
Meanwhile, people’s reactions on Facebook were mixed:
It is unclear what will happen to Robinson’s wife and their four children – except that this whole, tragic incident will probably affect them for the rest of their lives.