Preston and Blackpool fracking protestor claimed he was 'unable to leave house' - but was filmed scaling a HGV

A disability benefit claimant who told benefit chiefs he was unable to leave his home without help has been prosecuted after being caught on camera climbing onto a lorry during a fracking protest.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 1:45 pm

John James Knox, 33, was found guilty of a benefit fraud of nearly £9,000 following a trial before Preston Crown Court.

Today he was sentenced to a community order with a rehabilitation requirement and three month and two week curfew requirement.

Judge Andrew Jefferies QC said: " What's particularly upsetting is a week after this case concluded a disabled man, Earl Graham, killed himself because the government stopped his benefits because they thought he was inappropriately claiming, and what is sad about this case is people who play the system cause the problems for those genuinely entitled to benefits.

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Knox was filmed by the DWP

"The benefits system was criticised repeatedly but when the public see cases like this they will perhaps understand why the DWP are strict in the way they approach cases, because you show the other end of the scale."

He added he was unable to impose unpaid work, and that the curfew would punish Knox by restricting his activity over Christmas and the New Year.

Knox was found to be claiming ESA as well as Disability Living Allowance for mobility issues, and had made a statement to claim a mobility element, stating effectively he couldn't leave the house unaided, and suffered mental health issues when out.

The court heard he had even appealed a benefits decision and the award went in his favour.

Knox was filmed by the DWP

But while claiming the extra support he was filmed scaling moving lorries and mounting long demonstrations on top of them during demonstrations at the Cuadrilla site in Little Plumpton.

His activities also included shackling himself to other demonstrators for long periods of time.

The overpayment totalled almost £9,000.

Fiona Clancy, prosecuting, said the information in his claim was a 'stark contrast' to what had been witnessed.

Knox was filmed by the DWP

Judge Jefferies QC accepted Knox was entitled to some of the benefits but that his declaration about mobility was false.

He said: "Not content with the state system you were receiving you sought further assistance in what I will refer to as an extra mobility allowance, but because that was an additional benefit it was subject to additional safeguards and checks.

"Effectively you were saying you were unable to leave the house without some form of companionship, that it was a very daunting experience for you, that you would find it difficult to be in open spaces and crowded spaces, and it would all be too much."

"The jury concluded you'd been dishonest in those applications.

Knox was filmed by the DWP

"The length of time over which this matter went on for is an aggravating feature."

The court heard Knox had 17 convictions for 31 offences including an offence linked to fracking protests.

No proceedings will take place to recover the cash as the DWP is already taking steps to reclaim the cash.

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