KARATE TEACHER JAILED FOR FRAUD
15:00 - 30 January 2007
An award-winning martial arts instructor who fraudulently claimed £33,000 in benefits was today jailed for 15 months.Kevin O'Connor had previously admitted two charges of failing to notify changes in his circumstances which led to him claiming £30,516 in Incapacity Benefit and £2,500 in Disability Living Allowance between December 2001 and July 2005.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard that the 49-year-old father-of two, of Michigan Grove, Trentham, was working as a security guard while claiming the benefits.
O'Connor, who has taught martial arts for about 18 years, is one of the most highly-regarded ju-jitsu and karate instructors in the UK.
Timothy Harrington, prosecuting, told the court that O'Connor had suffered a serious back injury in 1994 which left him barely able to move.
He said: "The defendant claimed the higher rate of mobility allowance for people who are severely disabled and cannot get about.
"Mr O'Connor stated that he could barely walk without discomfort and could not get about without assistance."
But Mr Harrington said O'Connor never disclosed that he had taken a job as a security guard in 2001, following an improvement in his condition.
The court heard that his wages were paid into an account belonging to the Bushi Karate Jitsu Association, a martial arts organisation which O'Connor had set up to provide coaching session to his club, the Imperial Dojo, in Longton.
The court was shown covert surveillance footage from a martial arts event in 2004, in which O'Connor could be seen taking part in a training session involving punches, kicks throws and other manoeuvres.
"The defendant at the time this video was taken plainly was able to get about quite normally and take part in teaching martial arts," said Mr
When interviewed by investigators O'Connor said he had only been working for a few months and had mainly done voluntary work, but he changed his stance and entered guilty pleas in November last year when he was due to face trial.
John McNally, representing O'Connor, described his client's actions as "a Robin Hood kind of offence," saying that all of O'Connor's wages from the security job went to the martial arts organisation for community work.
After he entered his guilty pleas in November, O'Connor told The Sentinel he stepped down as the chairman of the Bushi Karate Jitsu Association, in August.
Judge Mark Eades said he took into account O'Connor's history of voluntary and community work and the glowing testimonials received from character witnesses.
But he said the offences were too serious to avoid a prison sentence.