A Carlisle city councillor fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds in housing benefit.

Mental health support worker Barrie Osgood, 44, who was Labour’s victorious candidate for Castle ward in last year’s May local elections, denied acting dishonestly when he made the claim but he was convicted after a four-hour trial at the city’s Rickergate courts complex.

He was charged after benefit fraud investigators discovered that a joint claim for housing benefit in his partner’s name failed to declare he owned a house which was rented out.

At an early stage, Osgood confirmed that he was the one who filled out the form – but he blamed his failure to disclose his full financial circumstances on mental health problems, magistrates heard.

The fraudulently-claimed sum totalled more than £3,500 over 11 months.

Andy Travis, prosecuting, said the claim form involved was submitted in June, 2014.

It was a joint claim for housing benefit but in his partner’s name because she was the tenant of the house in Lamb Street, Upperby, where they lived.

It was Osgood who dealt with financial issues in the house and he filled out the form.

As he outlined the case for the prosecution, Mr Travis said that while filling out the form Osgood had three times lied about his financial circumstances, at no time disclosing that he owned a house in Buchanan Road, Currock, which he was renting out.

In response to a question about whether he or his partner had income which he had not declared, Osgood ticked the “No” box. He did the same responding to a question about whether he had savings or investments.

He also denied having a mortgage – though he did in fact have one on the Buchannan Road house.

As a result, there was a housing benefit over-payment of £3,550.

Giving evidence, Osgood confirmed that he was at that time renting out the Buchanan Road house for £425-a-month, though he reduced the rent by £100 to help out the tenant.

The form also included the question: “Do you own, or partly own, any other property, land or timeshare other than the home you live in?”

This question was left unanswered.

When challenged by benefit fraud investigators, Osgood insisted the inaccuracies on the form were honest mistakes, made at a time when he was not thinking straight because he was suffering from depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

“If I was going to deceive anyone I think I’d have done something a bit better than that,” he said.

“It has been a pure and utter mistake... I was diagnosed in June or July by my GP and this can be verified. I am still on medication now.”

Osgood also said he had no idea why he had not declared the rental income.

His defence solicitor, Geoff Clapp, suggested that Osgood had not realised the house he owned in Currock was classified as an investment.

He also said the form had been misleading and effectively directed Osgood past the section that asked whether he owned a house.

Questioned by Mr Clapp, Osgood – a married father of two boys – outlined a series of problems that he was suffering before he filled out the form.

In 2013, a dog he had owned for more than 18 years died, he suffered a family bereavement, and his wife was diagnosed with MS.

In 2014, he was admitted to the cardiac unit of Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

He had to take time off work and was on medication for depression, he said.

“I felt as though my life was ended,” he told magistrates. “I was in a very dark place.”

He said it was the first time he had filled out a substantial form “like that” and that his mental health problems meant his concentration would go.

Osgood said: “I would never be dishonest. If I was dishonest, I would not put myself in the public domain.

“I’m a proud man. I don’t like the idea of claiming benefits unnecessarily.”

Osgood was then cross-examined by Mr Travis, who told the defendant: “The only thing you had a mental blackout about was [your property in Buchanan Road].

“When you filled in that form, you knew all about [the house in Buchanan Road], and you didn’t disclose anything about it because you knew it would reduce or annihilate any housing benefit you would get.”

The solicitor said Osgood was off work sick, on half pay and he believed he could get away with illegally claiming benefit he was not entitled to.

Mr Travis pointed out that all other sections of the form were correctly filled out except the part relevant to the defendant’s Buchanan Road property.

He added: “You signed a declaration [on the form] that everything was true and you knew perfectly well it wasn’t.

“You lied because you knew you would not get benefit if you told the truth.”

After hearing the evidence, chairman of the magistrates Michael Little said the form Osgood filled out gave him three opportunities to declare his income, savings and investments and he had dishonestly entered false information. “This is clearly false representation,” he said.

He said magistrates did not find it credible that his incorrect answers were an “honest mistake”.

Nor was it credible that Osgood was unaware of his obligation to declare his full financial circumstances.

The magistrates adjourned sentencing Osgood, whose partner watched the trial from the public gallery, until Tuesday.

They granted him unconditional bail until that date.