Anti-fracking protester claimed benefits due to ‘fear of leaving house’

The CPS said John Knox played an active part in demonstrations at a Cuadrilla fracking site in Lancashire.

The Cuadrilla fracking site in Little Plumpton
The Cuadrilla fracking site in Little Plumpton

An anti-fracking protester who claimed he could not leave his home because of “overwhelming psychological distress” has been sentenced to a community order for benefits fraud.

John Knox, 33, from Kirkby, Merseyside, played an “active and vigorous part” in various demonstrations at Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Little Plumpton, Lancashire, said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

He was seen handcuffing himself to other demonstrators, equipment and fencing on a number of occasions and jumping down from the top of a lorry to the cheers of fellow protesters after spending 24 hours on the vehicle.

His behaviour was incompatible with the level of capability declared on his benefits application form, said prosecutors, in which he stated that leaving the house and undertaking a journey would cause him overwhelming psychological distress and he found it very difficult to be in open, crowded spaces.

Investigators for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found Knox failed to notify any change in his circumstances that may affect his entitlement to Personal Independence Payments, awarded to people with long-term ill health or disability.

Knox was convicted in January of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances.

On Friday he was sentenced at Preston Crown Court to a 12-month community order and must also observe a curfew between 9pm and 6am for three months and two weeks, said the CPS.

Rob Girvan of CPS Mersey-Cheshire’s Fraud Unit said: “John Knox had taken part in radical and extreme demonstrations at the fracking site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire.

“On one occasion he was seen jumping from a lorry after a 24-hour protest on top of it, to the cheering of his fellow protesters.

“His ability to be involved in all of this made a lie of his comments on his benefits claim forms that simply leaving the house was extremely daunting for him.”

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