Sinn Fein councillor acquitted of benefit fraud

Sinn Fein Derry Councillor Colly Kelly.
Sinn Fein Derry Councillor Colly Kelly.

A Sinn Fein councillor from Derry has been acquitted of benefit fraud.

Colin Kelly, of Kildrum Gardens, had denied five charges alleged to have taken place between November 2010 and March 2014.

They included making a false declaration to obtain benefit and failure to declare a change of circumstances.

It had been alleged the 30-year-old dishonestly obtained more than £19,000 in Job Seekers Allowance and Housing Benefit.

The court heard he did not declare he was working as a councillor for Derry City Council but was not receiving a salary.

This was paid into a Sinn Fein bank account which Mr Kelly did not have any access to.

The only money Mr Kelly received was expenses for travel and his phone bill which he declared on benefit forms.

Acquitting Mr Kelly, Deputy District Judge Brian Archer said he had a ‘lurking doubt’ about whether Mr Kelly had acted dishonestly and the prosecution had not proved their case to the ‘required standard’.

He added that ‘maybe the political party should refund the public purse’ as they received the benefits of Mr Kelly’s wage as a councillor.

Speaking outside the court, Colr. Kelly said it was an ‘honest mistake’.

He said that, as soon as he became aware of the situation, he had taken steps to rectify it.

He added that the judge’s verdict had vindicated his position.