Former police protector of Tony Blair jailed for fraud
An ex-police protection officer for Tony Blair has been jailed after he swindled more than £50,000 in benefits.
Vaughan Dodds, 45, who used to work for Durham Police, claimed he was housebound but spent the money on holidays and his children's private school fees.
Dodds, of Spennymoor, had denied a string of dishonesty charges when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.
But he was convicted of nine charges and jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Dodds was a PC with Durham Police from 1993 until 2007 when he was dismissed for conduct reasons, a force spokeswoman said.
From February to November 1998 he was a member of the armed protection team based at Mirabella, the constituency home of the then Prime Minister and Sedgefield MP Tony Blair.
The hearing heard how Dodds claimed he could not walk more than 10 metres because he had myalgic encephalopathy (ME), and that his wife Mandy was also ill and hypersensitive to sound.
But a jury heard that the couple had gym membership and enjoyed a number of family foreign holidays.
'Distress' of wife
The father-of-two was accused of fraudulently claiming income support, council tax relief and disability living allowance between 2005 and 2009.
Filling out forms to claim money, Dodds said that even the sound of toilet tissue being ripped was distressing for his wife, the hearing heard.
He claimed he had difficulty making main meals for himself and needed help getting out of bed.
But the court saw film footage of the pair at the gym and pictures of them on holiday riding a camel.
Graham O'Sullivan, prosecuting, said: "The prosecution make no bones about it. We say this money was dishonestly obtained.
"We say it was used by Mr Dodds and his wife to fund a comfortable lifestyle - a lifestyle this couple could not otherwise have afforded."
Judge Graham Cook said that the case was made worse because Dodds was a serving officer who should have known the difference between right and wrong.
Nigel Soppitt, defending, described him as a "broken man" and said he was "deeply, deeply sorry" for what he had done.
He said prison would be "bleak and stark" for the former officer.