Council leader accused of giving false address tells court of marriage problems

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A council leader accused of lying about his home address has told a court he had temporarily moved out due to problems with his marriage.

Russell Bowden, 53, the Labour leader of Warrington Borough Council, denies giving a false statement in nomination papers ahead of the 2021 local elections by giving the home address of his estranged wife instead of the property where he had been living since 2019.

Giving evidence at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday, Bowden said he had moved out of the home in Applecross Close, Birchwood, within the ward which he represented on the council, in June 2019.

He told the court the split was down to his wife Beverley’s mental health and he felt the “right thing to do” was to “create space” in their relationship.

He said: “I envisaged it being six to eight weeks just to create space for us to deal with some of our issues.”

The court heard shortly after moving out he made a list of items he had taken from the property, including clothes, records, books and a knife set, and lodged it with his solicitor in anticipation of divorce proceedings.

Sarah Griffin, prosecuting, suggested he would not have made the list if he was moving out temporarily.

Bowden said: “I felt the need to make this list even though I was moving into temporary accommodation.”

He said a suggestion by a neighbour that he had moved out in 2017 was “absolutely false”.

The jury was shown a print out of activities he had recorded on exercise tracker Strava in 2018 and 2019 which he said showed he was living at the Birchwood address.

Bowden, who has been council leader since 2019, said the house had been put on the market in 2017 when the couple were “hellbent” on moving towards divorce, but they had taken it off the market a few months later.

The court heard Bowden’s car was registered to his new address, in Bewsey, with the DVLA.

He said: “I’ve probably got a record of speeding tickets and parking and what you need to do is provide an address where someone can send you the bill.

“I purely saw it as a contact address.”

“My relationship was improving with Bev and I expected to return to my permanent home in due course.”

The court heard Bowden remained married and had since moved back in with his wife.

He denied that including a home address within the ward he was seeking to be elected in would give him a political advantage.

He said: “It is ludicrous.

“I had lived in Birchwood for 25 years by that point.

“I’m very well known, I have represented people through my work as councillor for more than a decade and I was a local man.”

The trial is expected to last for the rest of the week.

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