A MAGISTRATE who trousered £22,500 in disability benefits worked as a salsa instructor, a court heard yesterday. Wayne Middleton, 48, took up the lively South American dance seven years ago, even though he could not walk without “severe pain”.
He became so accomplished that he went on to train as an instructor and taught at least two 45-minute classes a week.
Middleton, appointed a magistrate in 2009, was also filmed stilt-walking, grass-skiing and ABSEILING down a 150ft tower on Channel 4 TV show Coach Trip, North Somerset JPs heard.
But the ex-zoo volunteer signed papers declaring he was incapable of working. And the court was told he claimed at least £22,500 in disability living allowance and incapacity benefits from 2005.
Middleton, of Stanton Drew, Bristol, denies dishonestly making a false statement to obtain payment between 2005 and 2011.
He told the court he was entitled to the cash as he has Fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over his body.
He insisted: “I have to do something with my life — you just can’t sit and do nothing.
“You don’t know what it’s like to live in pain your whole life, my pain is never going to go away.
“It doesn’t matter what I do. You either do these things or you don’t — you have to live with it.”
Divorced Middleton first received benefits in 1999 after he twice appealed a decision to reject him.
He re-filed his application in 2003 and was listed as receiving benefits indefinitely unless he informed officials that his circumstances had changed.
But despite taking up salsa and appearing on Coach Trip for three days, he believed his condition had not improved and failed to reveal his exploits.
An investigation began after the Department of Work and Pensions received an anonymous tip.
Middleton, who takes 39 tablets for his condition, told magistrates his doctor had recommended he take up salsa dancing.
In 2008 he helped set up dance company Salsa Bristol to teach others the energetic steps.
He said: “The hospital helped set a goal for me — and that was to learn to salsa dance. We were encouraged to do exercise.
“I have nothing to hide whatsoever, my condition is very real.
“I knew I’d never be a dancer so I decided to learn to teach. It gave me a lot of friends — it makes you feel like you are alive and have something to do.”
In 2009 Middleton successfully applied to be a magistrate, overseeing hundreds of Bristol cases.
He told the court: “My condition hadn’t improved from 1999 and 2003, but it allowed me to fulfil my responsibility as a magistrate.
“That was fantastic, one of the proudest achievements of my life.”
In 2011 Middleton signed up for TV’s Coach Trip, where participants were required to undergo strenuous activities on a journey to Poland and Slovakia.
He said: “I had reservations to taking part, they knew my condition. I didn’t say no to some things, especially the grass skiing, as I really wanted to do it.”
Middleton insisted he had told the job centre of his activities but did not notify them that Salsa Bristol was making money.
Trial goes on.
The Sun By JAMES BEAL