Benefits fraud couple could face jail

November 6, 2007

A former mayor and his wife have been warned they may face jail after being convicted of falsely claiming benefits.

John Walker, 57, former mayor of Sefton, and his wife Catie, 43, were found guilty on Friday on a charge of conspiracy to defraud.

Earlier the couple were convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of exaggerating ill health to obtain £32,871 in disability living allowance.

The case has now been adjourned until 3 December for sentencing.

The court will be considering all options including immediate custody,Judge Brian Lewis told the couple.

Mr and Mrs Walker, of Farmer Place, Bootle, obtained a total of nearly £47,000 in disability living allowance and income support while Walker held public office, the jury was told.

The pair were caught out when fraud inspectors filmed Walker as mayor attending lengthy civic functions and making political speeches.

Judge Brian Lewis, told the pair: "The position is very serious and you should not read anything into the fact I am renewing your bail and ordering reports.

"The court will be considering all options including immediate custody."

The court heard that Walker, an ex-Labour councillor, stated on forms submitted between 1999 and 2004 that he suffered from the muscle condition fibromyalgia, ME and had severe disabilities which meant he needed round-the-clock care from his wife.

He listed "heavy night sweats" and swollen hands, arms and legs as effects of the illnesses and said walking long distances caused extreme pain and discomfort.

At the same time she was working as a taxi driver and the former mayor was claiming expenses in his council role.

On hearing the jury's verdict the Walkers' daughter, Emma broke down in the dock.

The final verdict comes after a seven-week trial.

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