Former boxing champion jailed

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The Independent Online

Former British and European heavyweight boxing champion Matt Skelton was jailed today after a court heard he attempted to pervert the course of justice to avoid speeding fines.

A judge at Cambridge Crown Court gave Skelton a five-month prison term and said the fighter had been "arrogant" and thought himself "above the law".

Skelton, 43, of Wilden, Bedfordshire, admitted attempting to pervert the course of justice three times between November 2006 and August 2008 after his Porsche car - which had a personalised number plate - was clocked speeding.

The court was told that on all three occasions Skelton falsely named "car valet Brian Williams" as the driver and gave at least one false address.

Skelton, who had initially denied any wrongdoing, was arrested after police concluded that there was "no locatable Brian Williams".

Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said Skelton, who was given legal aid to pay lawyers, was a "role model" and the court had to "set an example" to show that "no-one is above the law".

The judge handed down a five-month term for each offence and said all three terms would run concurrently. He said Skelton would be eligible for release on licence after serving half of the five-month sentence.

"You are a role model to the public, particularly in Bedford and Bedfordshire, and you knew that you were," the judge told Skelton.

"One deception in your case may be forgivable but not three over a long period of time."

Prosecutors said Skelton was clocked travelling at 44mph in a 30mph zone in November 2006 and at 37mph in a 30mph zone and 41mph in a 30mph zone in August 2008 - and would not have been facing a driving ban.

"I accept that you committed these offences in an arrogant manner," said Judge Hawkesworth.

"I take the view that you committed these offences because, in your own view of your own status, you were above the law."

He added: "The fact that there was no need for you to do what you did emphasises what a cynical offence this was."

Prosecutor Cameron Crowe said Skelton, whose car was clocked near Bedford, had told police that "Brian Williams", "the man who valeted his cars", had been the driver on all three occasions.

Police had initially "taken (Skelton) at his word" but, after failing to find Brian Williams at three different addresses provided by Skelton, had mounted a more thorough investigation.

After a car valeting firm manager said he had never employed anyone called Brian Williams, police concluded that "there was no locatable Brian Williams" and Skelton was charged.

Mr Crowe, who told the court that the prosecution had cost £5,000 of public money, said at the time of the first offence Skelton had no penalty points on his licence.

"(Skelton) was not liable in the ordinary course of events for disqualification and can only have been motivated therefore by a certain sense of arrogance that was bolstered by a cumulative sense of success in seemingly fooling police," said Mr Crowe.

"He has escaped prosecution and punishment for these speeding offences.

"He has wasted the time and energy of the central ticket office. He has ... triggered an expensive and lengthy police investigation and consequent prosecution."

Peter Marshall, for Skelton, said the fighter had been "foolish" and was "sorry".

"These are offences of crass stupidity," he said. "The lie he told initially spun out of control. He is very sorry."

Mr Marshall added: "He took a decision which was foolish and stupid and, of course, which has damaged the reputation which he has worked so hard to build up."

He said Skelton, who has a daughter, was one of seven children and grew up on an estate in Bedford.

He left school at 16, and initially worked as a warehouseman and doorman before going on to win five world Thai boxing titles.

Mr Marshall said Skelton switched to professional boxing at the age of 35 and challenged for a version of the world heavyweight title.

But Skelton's life had been "unravelling" at the time of the offences because his parents were ill, said Mr Marshall.

"He was... under considerable pressure," he said. "He was simply in fear that he would lose his (driving) licence. If he lost his licence he could not train. There would be difficulty in training."

Mr Marshall said any idea that Skelton was a big earner was a myth.

"He has, in the past, had very good pay days," said Mr Marshall.

"But those days are long gone."

The fighter earned £13,000 for his last bout in August, sometimes collected purses as low as £4,000 and had earned £25,000 in the last year.

He said Skelton drove a 10-year-old BMW X5, which was worth about £8,000.

"This is a man who is coming towards the end of a distinguished career, albeit not the most successful," said Mr Marshall.

"He does not earn a lot of money. His prospects are not as good as they once were."