Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Tax fraud fighter spared prison

A champion cage fighter has been spared jail after admitting failing to pay 21,000 in tax over three years.

Ian Freeman, 42, known professionally as "the Machine", stopped paying tax in 1997 when he left his job as a security guard, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Freeman, from Stanley, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was given a nine-month prison term suspended for a year.

He and his wife Angela, 34, also jointly admitted tax credit fraud of more than 13,000 over three years.

She received a six-week community order.

Freeman ran his own fight promotions firm and made television appearances but failed to declare his earnings of around 30,000 a year from 2003 to 2006, the hearing heard.

The couple also bought a new 18,000 car and a 27,000 boat before they were caught.

'Dedicated life'

The fighter's barrister, James Walker, presented the judge with a file of more than 90 references.

One character witness, David Scott, told the hearing how Freeman had helped raise charity money for his son Lewis, who is dying from cancer.

Judge Brian Forster QC said: "I have been very impressed by the large number of references and by the witnesses who have given evidence in this case.

"It is clear to me that you have achieved a great deal in your sporting career, but you have not sat back, you have dedicated your life to helping disadvantaged members of the public."

Freeman also received a 120 hour community service order and was given an electronic tag and a curfew.

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