Stephen Lee ‘on benefits’ after snooker ban

Stephen Lee: 12-year ban for math-fixing. Picture: PA
Stephen Lee: 12-year ban for math-fixing. Picture: PA
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DISGRACED snooker player Stephen Lee is living on benefits after being banned from the sport for match-fixing, a court heard.

Details of Lee’s fall from grace came to light after he pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud at Swindon Magistrates Court over the sale of his personal snooker cue.

The court heard Lee, of Birch Gardens, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, agreed to sell his John Parris Ultimate to fan Marco Fai Pak Shek, based in Hong Kong, through Facebook for £1,600.

But despite Mr Shek paying the money into the bank account of Lee’s wife, the cue never arrived - and 39-year-old Lee continued to use it.

Lee insisted he had always meant to send the cue but was distracted after becoming “embroiled in a number of difficulties” relating to his professional life.

Earlier this month, Lee was ordered to pay a total of £125,000 in costs after failing in his appeal to overturn a 12-year ban from snooker for match fixing.

The five-time ranking tournament winner and former number world five was handed the ban after a 2013 tribunal found him guilty of fixing seven games in 2008 and 2009.

Today magistrates ordered Lee to pay £1,815 after he entered a guilty plea to the charge of fraud by false representation between July 1 2013 and January 21 this year.

John Fryer, chairman of the bench, told Lee the fine would be deducted from the £133 he receives in benefits every fortnight.

“In arriving at our sentence at this matter, we have taken into account a number of things - your previous good character, you have not appeared before the courts before, and we have given you credit for your early guilty plea,” Mr Fryer said.

“We also note that you are on benefits and your income is significantly lower.”

Lee was fined £110 for the offence and told to pay Mr Shek £1,600 in compensation, along with £85 prosecution costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

When asked if he could pay the £1,815 fine immediately, Lee replied: “I can’t pay that today, no.”

Mr Fryer made a collection order for the amount, telling Lee: “If the payments stop, someone will be knocking on your door.”

Lee’s appeal against his 12-year ban was thrown out by Nicholas Stewart QC earlier this month, with his original costs order also increased from £40,000 to £75,000.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association described his actions as “the worst case of corruption” it had ever seen, while Lee said he was “devastated” by the penalty.

Prosecutor Michelle Hewitt told magistrates Lee offered his personal snooker cue for sale to Mr Shek for £1,600 and agreed for modifications to be made.

“But following the transfer of the funds, the defendant failed to send the snooker cue or make any arrangements for the modifications to be carried out as agreed,” Ms Hewitt said.

“When there was no sign of the snooker cue, a report was made to the police. They carried out an investigation and arrested the defendant.

“The defendant was still using the cue as his own personal property.”

Following Mr Shek’s formal complaint, made to police on January 24 this year, Lee sent the victim an email promising to “personally deliver” the cue to Hong Kong.

The email read: “If you want the cue, you need to drop the charges and I will sign some pictures for you”, the court heard.

However, Mr Shek refused to drop the charges and the case against Lee, who has no previous convictions, continued.

Representing Lee, Mark Glendenning said his client had repeatedly apologised to Mr Shek for failing to send the cue.

Mr Glendenning said the sale was arrange through Lee’s Facebook page, where he had previously sold items to fans “without incident”.

Lee attempted to arrange for work to be carried out on the snooker cue but became distracted with issues in his personal and professional life, he explained.

“Life took over, Mr Lee found himself embroiled in a number of difficulties which have been much publicised in relation to his career and that took a great deal of his time and energy,” Mr Glendenning said.

“He accepts in full he should have sent this cue, the difficulty being with his personal life impacting on his professional life.

“There was an intention to send that cue to Hong Kong but things took over and it didn’t get there.”

Lee, who wore a black t-shirt, black jacket and jeans to court, did not wish to comment to waiting press following the hearing.

However, a message appeared on Stephen Lee’s Facebook page stating that he was “gutted”.

The message read: “Well the guilty plead was honest as I took the money from a fan and I new (sic) that I had a plan to be out in hong kong in march to meet with him my self and hand the cue over and have a frame with him.....”

In reply to a comment of support, he added: “I’m just gutted ......”