Disgraced Labour councillor fails in late bid to avoid jail

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A Labour councillor has failed in a last minute attempt at avoiding a jail sentence today.

John Holden was appearing at Inverness Sheriff Court where he was sentenced to 12 months after being found guilty of a £43,000 benefit fraud.

He falsely claimed: £34,000 income support, council tax benefit of £6,925 and single occupancy of more than £2,309.

The Labour councillor had claimed the benefits by saying he lived alone, had no capital saved and was unemployed.  Instead, he lived with his wife, had saved £200,000 during the period in question (2002 to 2008) and had been earning £16,000 a year as a Highland Council councillor after being elected in May 2007.

Sheriff Ian Abercrombie branded Holden liar and a cheat and rejected a plea for the councillor to be given a non-custodial sentence.

Emma Knox, District Procurator Fiscal for Inverness, said: “John Holden was in a position of trust which he flagrantly abused. For a period of over nine years he lied about his circumstances to claim in excess of £43,000 in benefits, to which he was not entitled.

“Mr Holden in effect stole money from the public purse which was intended for those who most needed it.”

The Labour party has sought to distance themselves from Holden and a spokesman said that he had been suspended when they learned of the allegations.