Roof protest man escapes jail

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A MAN who launched a rooftop protest to highlight problems with benefits payments has been spared jail.

Paul Hawksworth climbed on to the roof of Fraserburgh Academy in April, armed with a banner which read: “starved and persecuted by the DHSS.”

The 51-year-old staged a six-hour stand-off, which is reported to have cost emergency services more than £2,000.

But the father of two was spared jail on Thursday after Peterhead Sheriff Court heard that he suffered from vertigo.

Sheriff Gregor Murray said: “All of us have to deal with the problems that life throws at us, and all of us have made ill-informed judgements, but what you did was off the scale. You inconvenienced many people including the emergency services, school children and the media.”

Hawksworth moved to Fraserburgh from Cumbria with his partner and two daughters in October last year but fell upon financial difficulties soon after.

He was granted an emergency loan of £110 from the Department of Work and Pensions in April, but did not qualify for any further payments because of his partner’s earnings.

Hawksworth said the pair split up six weeks ago and he was found emergency accommodation in Watermill Road, where he said he could not afford to pay for electricity.

Two Senior Representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions met with Hawksworth when he was taken into custody following the protest.

Fiscal Alasdair Fay said: “On some level it was a successful campaign as the payments are now in place. Interestingly, however, he now receives incapacity benefits for stress, depression, stomach ulcers and vertigo.”

Sparing Hawksworth jail, Leonard Birkenshaw, defending, said that Hawksworth accepted, with hindsight, that it wasn’t the best way to go about getting his point across.

Hawksworth was ordered to carry out 135 hours unpaid work and will be supervised by the Social Work Department for a year.