South East Wales

Skydiving Rhondda benefit cheat gets suspended sentence

A woman filmed skydiving while claiming sickness benefits has been handed a suspended jail term.

Clare Jones, 38, from Tonypandy, Rhondda, claimed she could only walk 25 metres without crutches, only to be filmed skydiving at 12,000 ft (3,657m).

She fraudulently claimed £891 in incapacity benefits and £5,125 in disability living allowance.

She was told she would have been jailed without a guilty plea and must also do 150 hours unpaid work.

Pontypridd magistrate Virginia Osbourne said: "The courts and society take a very dim view of this type of fraud.".

Jones' 12-week sentence was suspended for 12 months.

Earlier, the court heard Jones was so proud of her jump she paid for the professional video which was later used in evidence against her.

She also claimed her back was so painful, she could not stand at the cooker or cut vegetables for her partner and three children.

She was caught out after volunteering to do the tandem jump - attached to an experienced instructor - to raise money for charity.

Another parachutist filmed Jones leaping from the aircraft above Swansea Airport and going into a 120mph free fall for 45 seconds.

Jones told benefits officials she was "virtually unable to walk" - and it took her up to 10 minutes to cover 100ft with crutches.

But the court heard she was fit enough to volunteer to do the tandem jump.

The film shows Jones landing comfortably on two feet, smiling and speaking into the camera.

The court heard she was caught after a tip-off to benefits hotline.

She has since repaid the incapacity benefits but still owes the disability living allowance. She was ordered to repay the rest at the rate of £35 a week.

Back problems

At an earlier hearing, Jones accepted she should have declared her symptoms had improved and notified the authorities of her change in circumstances.

Prosecutor Jonathan Holmes told the court that as well as the sky dive, Jones had visited her gym 40 times using the facilities, swimming pool and sauna.

Jones also owned up to walking to her local social club and dancing while claiming she had severe back problems.

Magistrates heard that Jones worked at a sandwich bar and a restaurant while claiming benefits.

Mr Holmes said: "She took part in the charity skydiving event in Swansea but denied it at first. She said she had never done a jump.

"But inquiries with the company involved revealed she did the jump on November 2, 2008 and it was videoed. It was within nine months as registering as disabled.

"She continued to deny it until she was shown the evidence."

Defending Jones, Owen Thomas said she had done the parachute jump after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

He said: "The jump is suitable for people with worse disabilities than she has including amputations."

The court heard Jones' father died this week and his funeral is next Tuesday.

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