26 Apr 2011

Tragic mother cheated on benefits

A judo champion who was hoping to represent Great Britain at next year’s Paralympics has been exposed as a benefits cheat who exaggerated her disability.

Alexis Farrington, 37, claimed she could only crawl across her house on a bad day and could barely make a meal because of her problems with mobility.

But a court was shown footage of the mother-of-four throwing an opponent to the floor during a judo bout.

In fact she is one of the country’s leading competitors in visually impaired judo and came fifth in the world championships in Turkey last year.

She also came second in the German Open while in 2009 she won a bronze medal at the Samurai Open Championships in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, despite competing against fully-sighted opponents.

Surveillance images also showed her out walking and shopping with her family as well as going running. While the court heard she is genuinely disabled, it was told she had made false claims totalling almost £8,000 by overstating the difficulties she faced in day-to-day life.

Neil Bisarya, prosecuting for the Department of Work and Pensions at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court, said she had failed to notify them when her mobility improved.

‘She said she could not walk more than 20 yards, limping, and that on a bad day she had to crawl around the house,’ he added.

Farrington had competed successfully in judo in earlier life, but a car crash had severely damaged her eyesight, the court heard.

Her spine, hips and legs were all broken but she continued taking part in the sport on doctors’ advice. In 2005 she had made a claim for Disability Living Allowance, saying she had epilepsy, arthritis, depression and visual impairment.

But fraud investigators received reports that she was able to get around unaided and carried out video surveillance on her and her family in June last year.

She was filmed walking with her husband and children for more than three miles, shopping and going to a pub in her home town of Heysham, Lancashire.

After being arrested she admitted that her mobility problems had reduced.

Farrington, who is no longer a member of the British Judo visually impaired squad, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to notify of a change of circumstances affecting benefit.

She was sentenced to a 12-month community order.

A spokesman for the British Paralympic judo squad said afterwards: ‘She is no longer one of our team.’

The British Judo Association said she was no longer a member of the organisation.

No comments: