January 19, 2022
Squash-playing disability benefit cheat spared prison in Plymouth – Plymouth Live

Squash-playing disability benefit cheat spared prison in Plymouth – Plymouth Live

A cheat has been spared jail for pocketing disability benefits while playing squash and attending fitness classes.

Sneaky Douglas Wright, aged 60, was handed almost £16,000 while saying he had trouble walking and hardly went out, a court heard.

He said he struggled to cook meals, and with washing and dressing.

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But investigators secretly filmed him comfortably carrying heavy shopping around large supermarkets. And they found that Wright played squash and attended fitness classes at the Life Centre.

Wright came to Plymouth Crown Court carrying a bag packed for prison. But a judge said that she could suspend his sentence because his elderly mother and aunt would suffer without his care.

Judge Anna Richardson said: “The impact on the dependent relatives of an immediate custodial sentence would be severe in the extreme.

“It is a mitigating factor that what you were doing was shopping for those who depend on you. You were also doing physical activity to improve your physical and mental health rather than using drugs and alcohol.”

Squash player Douglas Wright, aged 60, has been convicted of lying to claim disability benefit
(Image: PlymouthLive)

She said that Wright was overpaid £15,888 in Personal Independence Payment to which he was not entitled over four years.

Wright, of Tamar House in Devonport, denied dishonestly failing to inform the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances affecting a claim for the benefit between June 2015 and May 2019.

He claimed that he did not fully take part in fitness classes and most of the time hit the ball against the wall alone on the squash court.

Wright, who does have a chronic pain condition, said that he frequently stopped while shopping.

But it took a jury just over an hour to find him guilty after a trial spread over three days just before Christmas.

The court heard that an investigator saw Wright carry four kilo bags of sugar in a supermarket.

He not only played squash and did fitness classes at the Life Centre, but he also joined the Fort Stamford club in Plymstock for more games.

Nigel Wraith, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said that the original benefit claim had been genuine but Wright’s health had very quickly improved.

He said that he was no longer being paid benefit and asked the judge to order the defendant to pay the money back in compensation.

Wright told the jury that he was left in pain and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after he was attacked by three people in 2003.

He added that he had only recently been diagnosed with central sensitivity syndrome.

Katie Churcher, for Wright, said that he had limited money available and lived an isolated life.

Judge Richardson declined to make Wright pay the money back.

She handed him a five-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a three-month electronically-tagged curfew.

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Source: https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/squash-playing-disability-benefit-cheat-6493195

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