Goole woman who forced daughter to use wheelchair in benefit scam jailed

Louise Law was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for child cruelty. Credit: MEN

A mother and father forced their young daughter to use a wheelchair for four years in a benefits scam.

The girl, who was aged seven when the abuse started, was also made to attend numerous needless medical appointments and was kept in hospital unnecessarily.

A court heard she suffered bullying and serious psychological harm because of the "gratuitous degradation" of being forced to use the wheelchair.

The cruelty was part of a scam by her parents, Louise and Martin Law, to obtain a mobility car and disability allowance payments.Louise Law, 50, of Harvest Way in Rawcliffe Bridge near Goole, admitted an offence of child cruelty at Hull Crown Court.

Her ex-husband, Martin Law, 54, formerly of Marshfield Road in Goole, was ruled unfit to enter a plea, but a jury found that he committed an act of child cruelty.

The court heard that the girl suffered "far-reaching consequences" and missed out on "normal childhood experiences" because of non-existent illnesses she was supposedly suffering from. Louise Reevell, prosecuting, said that the cruelty happened between 2012 and 2017.

She said both parents put their daughter in the role of a "sick and disabled child, missing out on ordinary childhood".The girl was put through "unnecessary medical procedures" and given medication, including ibuprofen and paracetamol she did not need."Some of this was to obtain enhanced welfare payments," Mrs Reevell said. Concerns were raised by social services and medical professionals that the Laws were "fabricating or exaggerating" the girl's symptoms.

The victim was interviewed in September 2022, at the age of 18, when she said that the behaviour from her parents started when she was aged five or six. "Her parents would tell her what to say to the doctors or her parents would do the talking for her," said Mrs Reevell.The Laws' home was adapted with grab rails and the family also received a car for the girl, paid for out of mobility benefit."Her parents made her think that she could not walk properly," Mrs Reevell said. "She would go to school in a wheelchair but she didn't really need it."

The girl was put into foster care at the age of 12.Mrs Reevell added: "At this stage, overnight, she appeared to make a miraculous recovery and did not require a wheelchair. She stopped taking medication and started behaving like a normal, healthy child.

"She was able to run up and down stairs. She went on to join the Army cadets. She did normal activities at school.

"At no point while she was in foster care did she suffer any pain or tiredness.

"She realised that she could do all the things that her parents had told her that she could not."In a statement, the girl said she was "subjected to bullying" due to the wheelchair.

"I missed out on doing PE. I missed out on doing the normal things that other boys and girls were doing at break time," she said."The wheelchair became a barrier to mak[ing] relationships and friendships."

A consultant psychiatrist said the girl "continues to experience nightmares" and struggles with feelings of "overwhelming and deep shame".Mrs Reevell told the court: "It was serious psychological harm for her. There were prolonged and multiple incidents of serious cruelty. There was gratuitous degradation, making her use a wheelchair for four years and deliberate disregard for her welfare."

Dale Brook, mitigating for Louise Law, said: "There is some optimism for the future but this is prolonged or multiple incidents of cruelty, not gratuitous degradation of a victim or sadistic behaviour."

The court heard that Martin Law had been convicted of two domestic violence offences against his wife."This was a toxic and wholly troubled marriage," Mr Brook said. Judge Kate Rayfield said there had been "far-reaching consequences" of the offending and the couple had put their daughter's welfare last."You caused her significant harm over a long period of time," she said.

"There was serious psychological harm to her and there still is."

Judge Rayfield sentenced Louise Law to prison for six years and nine months.

Martin Law was made the subject of a guardianship order, initially for six months, but to be reviewed after that.

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