City Sinn Féin Councillor cleared of doing the double

Sinn F�in Councillor, Colly Kelly.
Sinn F�in Councillor, Colly Kelly.

A Sinn Féin councillor from Londonderry 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 Féin 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 Cllr Kelly said it was an ‘honest mistake’.

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

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

Mr Kelly was co-opted by Sinn Féin to replace the outgoing Peter Anderson on Derry City Council in 2010.

The former St Brecan’s pupil got involved in politics through the republican youth group, Toirse, and later Ógra Shinn Féin.

Subsequent to his co-option Mr Kelly was successfully elected in the Cityside electoral area of Derry City Council in the Local Government elections 2011.

Mr Kelly was elected to the new Derry City and Strabane District Councils in The Moor electoral area last year.