Brighton drag queen Betty Swollocks convicted of benefit fraud

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A drag queen performer in Brighton has been convicted of benefit fraud totalling around £6,000.

Appearing at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 62-year-old John Townsend, who uses the stage name Betty Swollocks, admitted four counts of benefit fraud between November 2007 and September 2011.

He did not attend court as his alter-ego but instead wore a sober pinstripe black suit, yellow tie and black shoes.

Townsend had told Brighton and Hove City Council that he was unemployed whilst performing at gay venues in Brighton’s Kemptown area – and also claiming housing and council tax benefits.

Len Batten, prosecuting on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council, said Townsend “demonstrated a reasonable understanding of the benefit system”.

He added: “He said he did work as Betty Swollocks at the Queen’s Arms.”

However, Townsend’s defence lawyer claimed he was “not aware” he was committing a crime by working as Betty.

Jenna Threadgold, defending, said: “The work was sporadic at £25 a night, not a substantial amount of money.

“He was homeless living in a hostel. He is extremely remorseful.”

Townsend was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work, pay £500 costs and will have the amount he illegally claimed deducted from his benefits.

Townsend, who has had a double hip replacement and suffers from a heart murmur, is still working as a drag queen in Brighton.