A MAN who faked a fatal disease to avoid being brought to justice turned up to court in a wheelchair pretending to be unable to speak or walk.

John George Berry, 53, was first arrested in May 2016 on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. In August of that year, Berry admitted he had given a false statement to police about being harassed by a woman. The woman was arrested twice by police as a result of the false statement.

Berry was bailed to attend Bournemouth Crown Court for sentence.

However, he then said he was too unwell to attend court. Eventually, prosecutors arranged for the defendant to be examined by a neurologist.

An assessment was carried out at Berry's home in June 2017, although the doctor was not given permission to access the defendant's medical records. The final report filed by the doctor was based on the examination alone.

He concluded Berry was well enough to attend court and a hearing was set for September 4 2017.

However, the defendant failed to attend, claiming to be unwell. A further hearing was set for October 30. On that date. Berry appeared at court in a wheelchair, apparently unable to speak or walk.

Prosecutors were told Berry, who lives in Fontmell Magna, suffered from a form of motor neurone disease (MND) called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

ALS affects all limbs, as well as the muscles used to chew, swallow and breathe. It is always fatal.

Berry was bailed once again for a sentencing hearing on November 24. On this occasion, he attended, although a judge was told he expected to be admitted to hospital shortly for further investigation into his medical condition.

Once again, the case was adjourned, with a hearing set for December 15 for Berry to provide medical reports.

Police then received letters purportedly signed by a number of medical professionals. Further investigation revealed the letters were fake.

On the date in December, Berry attended, but was told by his solicitor that police knew he had provided fake medical records. He then left the court before the hearing and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

On Wednesday, January 24, Berry was arrested when his car was stopped by police near Iwerne Minster in north Dorset.

He appeared back before a judge sitting at Bournemouth Crown Court on April 5 and admitted two offences of perverting the course of justice and one of failing to appear at court.

He was jailed for three years.

Detective Constable Jo Blackmore said: “John Berry tried to avoid being brought to justice by putting fake medical evidence before the court.

“He has now been sentenced not only for the original offence, but also for a further offence of perverting the course of justice in relation to these false medical reports.

“I hope this case demonstrates that if you try and cheat the criminal justice system you will be found out and face a more significant punishment.”

MND is a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, which has no cure. It attacks the nerves that control movement so muscles no longer work, but does not usually affect the senses such as sight, sound and feeling.

Nick Goldup, director of care improvement at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: “Each day in the UK, six people will hear the devastating news that they have MND.

"In that instant, their world – and the world of their loved ones - is shattered. MND attacks the nerves, leaving those affected unable to walk, talk, eat and ultimately to breathe. Many people with MND can deteriorate incredibly quickly, one third of people lose their life within a year and over half within two years of diagnosis.

“Although MND is life shortening and there is currently no cure, symptoms can be managed to help maintain the best possible quality of life.”