Boston

Benefits cheat mum said she could barely walk… but she was a kickboxer

A mum who was paid over £21,000 in disability benefits after claiming she could barely walk was exposed as a fraud as investigators discovered she was a kickboxer taking part in major tournaments.

Tammy Horton, 31, was granted disability living allowance and then PIP (Personal Independent Payment) payment after claiming to be so immobile that she used a wheelchair or walked with sticks.

She told the DWP that she was so badly affected that she spent most of the day living in her pyjamas because her condition made it too painful even to get dressed.

However, investigators acting on a tip-off found that she had joined a kickboxing club and regularly attended sessions for nearly two years while claiming benefits.

During that time she competed in a number of tournaments. In 2016 she competed in the CIMAC British Open at Windsor and also in the Northamptonshire Open tournament.

She won a silver medal at a tournament in Solihull in January 2017 competing for the Boston Evolution Martial Arts Club. The following month she was a runner-up in her category at an international event held at Watford. She also competed for a Spilsby club.

Lisa Hardy, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court: “She claimed disability living allowance and subsequently PIPs over a three year period.

“She said she had serious and chronic conditions. She said she was limited to walking with crutches or using a wheelchair and that she was on morphine to control the pain.”

Miss Hardy said that back in October 2014 the DWP received a complaint that Horton’s benefit claim was fictitious. At the time she told investigators that the complaint was malicious.

“In February 2015 she made a complaint for PIP. A health assessor came out to see her and she confirmed the extent of her illness.

“She completed a lengthy application process and in interview she had such severe pelvic inflammatory disease that it affected her mobility.

“She said she was in constant pain every day. She said she did her food shopping online or sometimes would do click and collect. She said her husband would collect her prescription.

“She told how she would live in her pyjamas for the majority of the day because it was too painful to get dressed.

“She said she didn’t like going out because she was too anxious. She said she would struggle to walk more than 20 metres. She was asked to perform a number of physical tasks which she said she could not complete. As a result she was awarded PIP.

“An investigation subsequently showed that Miss Horton as far back as January 2014 had in fact joined a kickboxing club and was a regular member.

“She received grading certificates and competed in competitions. This was a lady who expressed that she needed an extra banister fitted just to be able to get up and down stairs.

“She was placed under surveillance. That showed her driving to drop off her children at school and shopping. She was seen walking independently without support.

“She was brought in for interview but denied claiming any benefits dishonestly. She said her pain varied but was always there.

“She said she had attended kickboxing clubs in Spilsby and Boston saying that it gave her mental focus.”

“This was a deliberate misrepresentation given to the health assessor. The answers were very detailed. They were backed up in interview verbally and on paper.”

Horton, 31, of Folly Lane, Stickney, Lincolnshire admitted charges of failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstance between February 5, 2014 and March 25, 2015. She also admitted making a false statement to obtain PIP between March 25, 2015 and May 10, 2017.

In total she received benefits totalling £21,928 to which she was not entitled.

She was given a 10 month jail sentence suspended for two years.

Judge Andrew Easteal, passing sentence, told her: “You were paid just under £22,000 worth of public money by way of benefits which you simply were not ever entitled to. You received it because you perpetrated, deliberately and carefully and with extraordinary arrogance, deceit throughout that time by pretending and lying about the extent of your illnesses and their impact upon you.

“It was untrue. All that time you were becoming an accomplished kickboxer. The contrast between the picture you painted and the reality of the life you were living is breathtaking. This was a planned, detailed, gross deception that went on for several years. It was just inexcusable.

“However the doctor does make it clear that you suffer from serious medical conditions.”

Edna Leonard, in mitigation, said that Horton does suffer from illnesses but was not entitled to the level of benefits she was receiving.

“Her chronic pelvic disease is recorded. She also suffers from fibromyalgia. She is bi polar and has mental health difficulties. She would have been entitled to some assistance but not what she got.”

Miss Leonard said that Horton has a young daughter whose life would be ruined if she were jailed immediately and urged that she be given a suspended sentence.

Horton wept during the hearing and apologised from the dock telling the judge “Sorry”.

A DWP spokesman said afterwards: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from the people who need it.

“We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”