Ex-mayor and wife jailed for benefits fraud

A former mayor and his wife were today jailed for 15 months and eight months respectively for falsely claiming almost £50,000 in benefits.

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

They were also convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of exaggerating ill health to obtain disability living allowance.

Judge Brian Lewis described the deception of the pair as "a disgraceful breach of trust".

He said it had involved persistent and serious abuse of the benefit system and that the couple had shown no remorse.

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

The court heard that the 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.

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

John Walker, 57, was jailed for 15 months and his 48-year-old wife was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Judge Lewis said: "It is apparent that as the two of you postured in your civic finery being chauffeured around in your publicly-funded limousine then, and for some years before, you systematically cheated the community which had honoured you.  It is a disgraceful breach of trust."

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