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Man claiming Disability Living Allowance as he won bronze for judo at Commonwealth Games

A top judo coach who won a bronze medal in the sport at the Commonwealth Games was claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the time, a court heard.

Martin Sloane (47), who had once said it took him 10 minutes to walk six metres, was receiving the highest level of the benefits when he took the award in an over-40s section of the judo championships in 2006.

Sloane was caught by benefits investigators who filmed him at judo coaching sessions.

The accused, from River Court, Dunmurry, outside Belfast, pleaded guilty yesterday to failing to |inform authorities about a change in his circumstances in April 2002.

He had first claimed DLA for a severe arthritic condition in April 1992 but his condition improved after he was treated with new drugs.

He took up judo and then started to coach children and he received weekly payments. But he didn't tell the benefits authorities, who launched an investigation in 2008.

Prosecuting lawyer David Cartmill said the videos of Sloane's judo activities were “incompatible with the information in his DLA claim forms”.

Sloane had been paid more than £67,000 in DLA but the authorities said they could only prove that £24,300 of that was claimed fraudulently.

Judge Stephen Fowler, who will sentence Sloane on Wednesday, said his fraud was a blatant one as he had won his judo medal at the same time he was claiming the top level of DLA.

A defence lawyer said that going from claiming disability |allowances to coaching judo had been “a huge leap” for Sloane but he said he had had a genuine condition which was gradually brought under control with drugs.

He said Sloane didn't live a life of luxury with flashy cars or Jacuzzis at his modest Seymour Hill flat, where he lives with his wheelchair-bound wife.

The lawyer said Sloane was her sole carer but didn't claim benefits for that.

He added that the accused was paying back the money he had claimed fraudulently with a small amount every week.

He said Sloane was still suffering from a form of his medical condition and was reluctant to be lumped in with thieves, robbers and fraudsters.

The judge said he wanted to see the videos of Sloane before sentencing him.

He granted him bail but added: “That is not an indication of the final disposal of this matter.”

Background

In Northern Ireland, 182,423 people currently receive DLA — 103,500 of these people are of working age. Northern Ireland is more dependent on the UK social security budget than other regions. In part this is the result of years of higher levels of disadvantage or need. While morbidity here is higher than in other regions, the differences are not large enough to justify all the working-age people deemed to qualify for DLA.

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