Here’s a man who was driven beyond his capacity to cope with the DWP’s irrational behaviour towards him – so he reacted in a similarly irrational way.
In the belief – probably quite right – that Job Centre staff were holding an axe to his neck, he decided to take one to their office and see how they liked it.
It wasn’t right – but it is perfectly understandable.
He is another member of the ever-growing army comprising people who have been classed as “fit for work” by the DWP, even though his medical record quite clearly states the opposite.
His entire income had been cut off for seven weeks by the time of the incident in question, and he had been forced to sell his possessions in order to survive.
This Blog reported on his story here.
Is it any wonder he snapped?
He is exactly the sort of person researchers from Oxford and Liverpool universities have been discussing in today’s (November 17) report on the increase of mental illness in people who have taken the work capability assessment.
Here’s the story:
Philip Heath, of Camborne, who pleaded guilty to possessing a bladed article – a three-foot axe – in a public place, was handed a suspended prison sentence for what [magistrates’ chairman] Mr C Spettigue described as a “very serious offence with a huge potential for harm”. His actions, said Mr Spettigue, had been “premeditated to convey fear”. A charge of affray was withdrawn.
Alex Passman, for the prosecution, said that PCSO Tildesley was on foot patrol at the rear of the Wilkinsons store at 2.50pm on October 23 when he saw Heath in Lemons Court holding the axe downwards and “glaring into the job centre”.
A member of the public shouted to the officer, who ran down the steps and put his hand on the axe, telling Heath to hand it over.
Heath swore in reference to the job centre, saying he had the axe because he hadn’t received any benefit money for several weeks.
PCSO Tildesley grabbed the axe and eventually disarmed Heath who kept coming at the officer and trying to get the axe back.
The PCSO then restrained Heath on the ground with the help of two security guards and when other officers arrived they assisted. An ambulance was called as Heath was complaining of chest pains.
Nicola Chandler, for the defence, said that Heath was “truly sorry”.
He was a proud man who had worked for most of his life as a long-distance lorry driver. In February last year he suffered a heart attack, which led to a stent being fitted and meant he could no longer work.
After six months’ statutory sick pay, he was then put on Employment Support Allowance. However, when this was reviewed, despite being classed as unfit to work by his GP, he was assessed by the DWP as being fit for work and his benefits were stopped.
He was then without benefits for seven weeks, said Miss Chandler, and even had to sell his tools to raise cash to make ends meet.
He had tried to call the job centre and DWP but was repeatedly put on hold and felt he was “not getting anywhere”. At the end of his tether, he had gone to the job centre with the axe “to cause a shock and get a reaction”.
That is compelling evidence, and should have won this man the conditional discharge that was recommended by the Probation Service. Magistrates could also have required him to seek treatment for the mental health problems that had clearly developed as a result of his ill-treatment by the DWP.
However, it seems the magistrates had other ideas. They handed down a six-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered the defendant to pay £85 in prosecution costs, an £80 victim surcharge and a £180 criminal courts charge. That’s £345, from a man on (reinstated) benefits!
Ludicrous. This is why it is so hard to connect the fate of benefit claimants to ill-treatment by the DWP.
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