Former council candidate Graham Axford jailed for benefit fraud
A former Croydon Council election candidate - who wrongly claimed housing and council tax benefit while failing to declare he had a mortgage - has been jailed for 16 weeks.
Graham Axford, of Belgrave Road, South Norwood, was found guilty in February of three counts of fraud by false representation in relation to benefits paid by Croydon Council between September 2000 and July 2007.
This morning he was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment for each count, which will run concurrently.
The 58-year-old stood as a Liberal Democrat in Upper Norwood ward in Croydon Council elections in 2010.
Still claiming after back injury 18 years ago
A year later, he hit the headlines after appearing on an episode of BBC Panorama, in which his claiming of incapacity benefit was called into question.
Axford has been in receipt of the benefit after injuring his back in a motorcycle accident in 1995, but an investigation was launched after he was caught sailing his private yacht across the Atlantic Ocean.
The episode, which aired in November 2011, showed footage Axford had filmed of himself as he tackled dangerous waters sailing 43ft Crumpet Too from America to the Azores.
After he appeared on national television, the Croydon Guardian revealed he had also participated in a national bike race lasting 24 hours.
He has never faced charges over his receipt of incapacity benefit.
"Blatant lie" to scrounge benefits
This morning, in court, Judge Peter Gower QC said: "You dishonestly claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit to the tune of just under £30,000.
"You made these dishonest claims in 2003 and again in 2007, twice.
"You had a home in France and in 2007 you declared to the council you were not paying any money. This was a blatant lie.
He added: "It is conceded your claims were not fradulant from the outset but this was a fraud over a significant amount of time."
On mitigation, his defence Len Furlong asked for a suspended sentence and a community order.
He said Axford did a lot of work in the community including helping in soup kitchens for the homeless, worked in a charity shop for the blind and did work with disabled cyclists.
During his trial Croydon Crown Court heard Axford failed to declare he owned a property in Wales which he bought in 1984 and had a mortgage for.
He also did not reveal he part owned a farmhouse in Normandy.
As a result he pocketed over £29,000 worth of benefits he should not have received.
Croydon Council has confirmed Axford has since been evicted from his flat in South Norwood.
A council spokesman said: "Under the terms of a tenancy agreement, if the tenant has a conviction linked to the property, we can apply for possession of the property."