imageA benefit cheat who claimed he could not walk and swindled £20,000 in disability payments has walked free from court despite being caught out by officers after he was filmed boxing. 

Mark Ashman, 51, pocketed thousands after he told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) his arthritis was so bad he required round-the-clock care.

But he was exposed when fraud investigators found YouTube footage of him sparring with a partner in an outdoor boxing ring.

The brazen boxer’s open-air display was part of last year’s Olympic torch relay.

But Ashman, who also ran a security company while claiming incapacity benefits and disability living allowance, was spared jail at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court yesterday.

Magistrates handed him an eight-week jail term suspended for six months after he admitted two counts of failing to notify a change in circumstances.

Chair of the bench Ted Crutchley said Ashman was spared jail because of his early guilty plea.

He said: ‘This is a custodial sentence but we are prepared to suspend it on the condition you do not commit any further offences.

‘We pass this sentence because of the length of time the offences were committed over and the substantial amount of money which was taken from the system.’

Ashman was also ordered to pay £100 prosecution costs and an £80 surcharge.

After his sentence was handed down surprised Ashman asked magistrates if he could leave the court.

He said: ‘I’m free to go now?’

Suki Rai told the court Ashman had claimed his arthritis was so bad he was placed in the ‘virtually unable to walk’ category and awarded a higher level of benefits.

She said: ‘Mr Ashman was capable of undertaking activity that appeared to be incompatible with his benefits.

‘He was capable of coaching boxing and the club confirmed he was self-employed with his day and night security business.

‘With regards to his disability allowance his last self-assessment was in 1999.

‘He said that due to arthritis in his right knee he was very disabled and needed care and often found it very difficult to walk without a walking stick.

‘He said his walking ability was restricted to 100 yards which would take him ten minutes to walk this distance.

‘An allegation was received that Mr Ashman was capable to walk and that he had a security firm.’

Ashman, of Wolverhampton, West Midlands, received £9,182.05 in disability benefits between March 1, 2009 and August 12, 2012.

He also claimed £12,560.43 in incapacity benefit between October 1, 2009 and January 2, 2012.

Ashman was captured on camera outside Wolverhampton’s Boxing Club gym taking part in a demonstration on a torch bearers route for last year’s Olympics.

The respected coach even trained fighters from the Caribbean island of Dominica to prepare them for the Games.

The footage shows Ashman jumping around the ring with boxing pads as a bulky fighter delivers powerful blows.

Debbie Starrs, defending, said Ashman had initially submitted a genuine claim but did not tell the DWP when his condition improved.

She said: ‘The mischief in this case is that he should have notified them sooner than he in fact did.

‘He wishes not only to pay his taxes and be an active member of society but wants to create employment.

‘He appreciates there are young people out there who are not given the opportunity to achieve their potential.’

A DWP spokesperson said after the hearing: ‘It’s cases like these that show us why welfare reform is needed.

‘We have a duty to the taxpayer and our customers to make sure that these vital benefits only go to those who need them.

‘Benefit fraud takes money away from the most vulnerable.

‘It is a crime and we are committed to stopping it by catching criminals at the front line and making sure our reforms make the benefit system less open to abuse.’

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