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Woman sentenced for claiming disability benefits while taking part in anti-fracking demonstrations

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A woman who was being paid one of the highest levels of disability benefits while she was taking part in anti-fracking protests has been given a 23-week jail sentence, suspended for two years.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that Catherine Jackson, 51, was taking part in strenuous demonstrations against fracking in Lancashire while claiming disability benefits.

In her claim for Personal Independence Payments, Ms Jackson said she could barely stand up and slept most of the day because of the pain she was in and the medication she had to take.

She said she had arthritis and the extreme pain in her shoulder meant she couldn’t hold anything so couldn’t cook for herself. She said she also suffered from anxiety and depression and couldn’t leave her home without suffering a panic attack.

However, she was photographed at the fracking site in Little Plumpton, shackled to equipment to protest against the process. She was released when police used angle grinders to break through the shackles she’d used to lock herself to equipment.

Ms Jackson was due to go on trial at Blackpool Magistrates' Court this week (10 June) for dishonestly claiming £5,392 of Personal Independence Payments from June 2017 to May 2018, but pleaded guilty at the last minute. As well as her suspended jail term, she is also subject to a curfew and must remain at home from 7pm at night to 7am in the morning for the next 12 weeks.

Justine McVitie of the Crown Prosecution Service Fraud Unit said: “Ms Jackson had claimed that she suffered from a variety of mental and physical ailments that meant she rarely left the house and slept most of the day.

“She said she had to be woken for meals by her daughter and was in constant pain. Yet she was seen taking part in physically demanding protests at the Little Plumpton site that would be challenging for most people.

“She locked herself onto equipment that meant she had to remain in the same position for quite some time. This, again, would be difficult if she was as disabled as she claimed.

“Part of her defence was that the activity helped her mental health condition, but this was not convincing. It was clear to the CPS that Ms Jackson was dishonestly claiming this money and was not nearly as incapacitated as she claimed.

“There are a lot of demands on the public purse and a lot of people who genuinely need the support of the state to live.

“Ms Jackson has taken thousands of pounds of money that is much needed elsewhere. She finally pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence and has now been sentenced. We hope this sends out a warning to other people claiming money to which they are not entitled.”

Notes to editors

  • The charge to which Ms Jackson pleaded guilty on 10 June 2019 is: 'Dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefits'

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