BT in pounds 300,000 payout to injured worker

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A British Telecom worker was last night celebrating a pounds 300,000 compensation payout from the company after a bitter five-year battle.

Steve Crawley, 39, says BT spent those years waging a "dirty tricks" campaign to try to prove that he was faking serious injuries sustained at work. Private detectives were hired to follow Mr Crawley and his wife, Carol, also 39, for nearly two months and they were secretly filmed at home and out shopping. Mr Crawley was injured in January 1991 as he climbed a pole to change an aerial cable. He had requested an elevating platform but was refused. He suffered severe damage to the discs in his back, leaving him with a permanent limp and limited movement.

Despite comprehensive medical evidence and three serious operations on Mr Crawley'sback, BT tried to catch him looking fit. The company arranged for him to be videotaped at his home in Ashton, Lancashire, and at a supermarket to see if he lifted heavy bags of shopping. Mr Crawley was shown the films before the case was due to come to court last month. He accepted a last- minute out-of-court settlement.

He said: "As I looked at the video footage I thought they were now trying to ruin my life. For weeks on end they had taken shots from across the road from my house. They filmed me limping down my path. They filmed me struggling to the bin with small bags of rubbish. They filmed my wife arriving home with the shopping to see if I was able to help her. If only I could. My limp and my mobility problems were very obvious but BT then suggested that I was only acting. The strain has been unbearable."

While off work his pay went down to pounds 50-a-week, and BT tried to reclaim money after it told Mr Crawley he had been overpaid. The company's most recent annual figures revealed a pre-tax profit of pounds 2.6bn.

Representatives from the Communication Workers' Union, to which he belonged, tried to persuade BT to make interim payments while they presented the company with medical evidence of his injuries. But after BT accepted the evidence, the undercover investigation began. BT said it was not its policy to discuss details of individual compensation case or settlement. "All we will confirm is that we have reached a settlement with Mr Crawley and the matter is closed."