An East Neuk woman has been found guilty of fraudulently claiming disability benefits on behalf of her daughter, who is a junior world champion kickboxer.
Carol Black stood trial at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court accused of failing to declare an improvement in her daughter’s health between 2016 and 2016.
The 52-year-old, from Cellardyke, was originally charged with claiming more than £22,000 in disability living allowance but was found guilty on an amended charge featuring a lesser sum.
Sheriff James Williamson found that the mother-of-three had “told lies” on an application to the Department of Work and Pensions submitted on behalf of Christianne Fahey.
She was ordered to pay £300 after being found guilty of claiming a sum of benefits to which she was not entitled.
The court heard how Black’s 27-year-old daughter had won various sporting accolades and represented Scotland with the women’s rugby team.
Fahey, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and other various health conditions, gave evidence and said her mother had a “tendency to exaggerate” her conditions.
She said: “She lumps things together and adds arms and legs.
“She would often say that if you’re entitled to something then you should take it.”
Asked if she thought that was a fair statement about her mother claiming the disability benefits, Fahey replied: “Well that depends on your definition is of somebody being disabled.
“My mum would move the goalposts. She was right about 60% or 70% of the time with the application, but it’s the other 30% or 40% where she over-exaggerated.
“I used the benefits money to fund my sports for my mental health but I didn’t need the higher rate for that. I don’t think it was appropriate.
“There are people who actually need the higher rate of benefits and that’s why I think I only needed the lower rate. Some of the examples that she put on the forms are ridiculous.”
In giving her own evidence, mother-of-three Black said caring for her daughter was like “being Columbo on a daily basis, trying to figure out what was causing what symptom”.
She added her daughter was “exhausted daily” and suffered from “chronic pain”.
When asked how her daughter managed to carry out all her sporting activities whilst suffering from the alleged symptoms, Ms Black said: “When it comes to pain, she will not lay down, often to her own detriment.
“If she doesn’t have her sports, she is dangerous to herself and to other people. She has an insatiable urge to compete. She has learned to live with the constant pain.”
Depute fiscal Nicola Henderson asked Black if she reported any improvements in her daughter’s health to the DWP, Ms Black replied: “How many phone calls would you like me to make? Her condition changed from hour to hour.”
Sheriff James Williamson did not believe Black’s explanation but admitted her daughter would have been entitled to some form of disability benefit.
He said: “In 2016, you were asked to complete an application form again which you did and you rehashed all the conditions by name on the first page.
“You said that she still had significant difficulties which would entitle her to Disability Living Allowance and you gave some descriptions.
“The descriptions you provided knowingly mislead the DWP and you have told lies.
“This is a young woman who has represented her country, who is known as a junior world champion kickboxer, who is a Scottish heavyweight boxing champion that also coaches rugby, and is regarded as a fearsome competitor.
“Yet you described her as someone who can barely stand or hold a cup which frankly beggars belief.”
He accepted however that Fahey did suffer from certain health difficulties that would warrant some form of disability payment but admitted he was not placed to determine the amount.
Sheriff Williamson instead reworded the charge and found her guilty of obtaining a sum of benefits on behalf of Fahey to which she was not entitled.
He fined her £300 to be paid within 28 days.