Tower Hamlets councillor could face jury trial for benefit fraud

A Tower Hamlets councillor could face a jury trial at Crown Court over benefit fraud accusations after her case was adjourned by a magistrates’ court this week.

Serving councillor Shelina Akhtar, who represents Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court on charges of sub-letting her housing association property. The 32-year-old councillor sat in the dock with her co-defendant, sister Hazera Aktar, 21, who faces similar charges.

Cllr Aktar is accused of failing to disclose that she was not living at her address at Blackwall Way on the Isle of Dogs for nearly 16 months while claiming more than �1,000 in housing and council tax benefits.

Her sister Hazera is charged with claiming almost �1,500 in benefits while failing to inform the authorities that she did not live at her address at Glasshouse Fields in Limehouse.

Deputy District Judge Studdert decided to adjourn the case for six weeks to consider whether the magistrates’ court has sufficient powers to deal with the case. Both sisters were bailed to appear at the same court on July 19.

Tower Hamlets council said that, for legal reasons, it was unable to comment until the case had concluded.