By Duncan Mackay

Simon Jackson with Paralympic gold medalFebruary 4 - Britain's triple Paralympic judo gold medallist Simon Jackson has been given a four month community order and must abide by a 7pm to 6am curfew after being convicted of fraudulently claiming more than £10,000 of taxpayers' money.

Jackson, who is visually impaired, issued a tearful apology after he was caught fraudulently claiming £10,890 ($17,581/€13,438) for taxis to work when he was, in fact, being driven there by his wife.

The 40-year-old, a Member of the British Empire (MBE), was exposed after inspectors from the Department of Work and Pensions saw his wife Sarah, 29, driving him to a school where he is employed as a student learning mentor for Rochdale Council, in Greater Manchester.

Inquiries revealed there was no record of the visually impaired athlete - who won gold medals at Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, as well as a bronze at Sydney 2000 - using taxis under the Government's Access to Work payment during a ten month period.

Jackson, from Littleborough, near Oldham, admitted benefit fraud but escaped jail after insisting he was "ashamed" of his conduct and had been subjected to abuse following his exposure.

"Throughout my life I have tried to do everything by the book and I shouldn't have done what I did," he told Manchester Magistrates Court. 

"I get up each morning and enjoy my job and try to make a difference with children that I work with.

"I have had abuse and my mums house has been vandalised - even though I don't even live with her.

'I have not been out that much and feel ashamed of what I have done.

Simon Jackson leaving Manchester courtSimon Jackson leaving Manchester Magistrates Court after being sentenced

"I don't want one mistake I have made affect the rest of my life.

"I love to have something to get up to in the morning.

"Before this I was a valued member of society.

"After this has finished I want to start to rebuild my life again."

The curfew on Jackson, who was also ordered to pay costs of £250 ($393/€290), will be relaxed every Tuesday to start at 10pm so he can carry on teaching judo to youngsters. 

"You should be an example to your pupils and to all those around you," Stephen Ingram, the Justice of Peace, told Jackson as he passed sentence.

"You are a role model to young people.

"You have let yourself down and you will have this stigma around you for long after what happens in this court room."

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