Labour councillor found guilty of fraud

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Labour councillor John Holden, 63, is facing prison after being found guilty of a £43,000 benefit fraud following a 13-day trial at Inverness Sheriff Court.

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

Holden 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.

Unexpectedly, his son Sean Holden, 39, contacted the Procurator Fiscal mid-trial and, acting as a prosecution witness on the last day of the trial, said his father was a liar who had been living with his present day wife since 1999.

Councillor Holden may now lose his job on Highland Council (the same council he defrauded) if he is jailed.  Highland Council convener Sandy Park said the very serious charges would mean his position as a councillor would depend on the sentence.

Sheriff Ian Abercrombie found him guilty on all charges, a proceeds of crime order for confiscation of the cash has been served on Holden and final sentencing has been deferred until August 11 for background reports.