WELFARE activist Dr Tony Cox has been sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work after being found guilty of shouting and swearing at Maximus disability assessment centre staff while accompanying a benefits claimant.

Cox, who volunteers for the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, plans to appeal against his conviction and community payback sentence handed down at Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday.

He said he was extremely disappointed with the verdict and called the ruling a “political attack”.

Cox, of Dundee, added: “I am furious with the verdict, being made to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work within six months is a clear attack on my ability to carry out my work helping people through the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network.”

Trouble began when Cox attended the Maximus Assessment Centre at Caledonian House in Dundee on November 15 last year, and Maximus refused to allow him to accompany a vulnerable woman to her assessment and called the police.

Cox was arrested and held overnight in police cells. The court heard that he argued with Maximus employees that the claimant had the right to be accompanied.

John McArdle, co-founder of Scotland-based disability rights campaign Black Triangle, said: “We allege that the conviction and sentence of Dr Tony Cox is a miscarriage of justice.

“Tony Cox is being martyred for reaching out to vulnerable people with physical and/or mental impairments in distress – whose fundamental human right it is to be accompanied to these notorious Work Capability Assessments by a person of their choosing.

“Black Triangle believes that the Sheriff Court has erred in its findings, which appear on the face of it not to have been made out by the prosecution to the required standard of proof, which is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ in criminal cases.

“In stating that the court ‘preferred’ the hearsay evidence of the Maximus employees over the corroboration of witnesses in Dr Cox’s defence, it appears to us that the conviction is unsafe, as a decision on Tony’s culpability seems to have been made on the standard of proof applicable to civil cases: the balance of probabilities.

“At most, we believe a verdict of not proven would have been the only option available to the Crown.

We will be supporting Dr Cox in his appeal and are confident that Tony will be exonerated once the evidence has been reviewed at appeal.”

The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network reacted with fury insisting “advocacy is not a crime” and held a protest outside the court.

In a statement the group said: “This case is of importance to welfare activists everywhere, who need to feel free to advocate for people needing help, to support people through an often hostile system, and to question misinterpretations of the rules. The Maximus assessors don’t like being checked up on and don’t react well to being corrected.

“When Tony Cox pointed out to one of the assessors that he was fully entitled to take notes and use them in any subsequent appeal, she took against him and called the police.

“However, the person he was accompanying was able to reassure them that no crime had taken place. When, months later, he attempted to accompany someone else to an assessment, that same assessor insisted he left the building. When he refused to abandon the person he was helping, the assessor called the police.”