GYPSY leader Billy Welch swerved six penalty points on his driving licence after a court heard he leaves insurance to his wife because he can “barely read”.

Appearing at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court under his full name of William Henry Welch, the campaigner for Gypsy and traveller rights - who has appeared on 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' and other TV shows - was granted an absolute discharge after admitting driving a car without insurance.

The court heard how Welch’s own car had broken down when he was working in Leominster and a friend leant him a Vauxhall Vectra to drive back home.

Welch told the court that he had rung his wife, Rachel, to check he was covered to drive the Vectra. After reading the insurance policy for their own family Ford Mondeo, she told him that he was.

Welch, 53, of Cobden Street, Darlington, told the court he left insurance documents to his wife because: “I can barely read.”

Mrs Welch, 49, told the court: “We were both named on the insurance document and so I thought we were both policy holders.”

Andrea Milson, prosecuting, told the court that, in fact, under the insurance, Mrs Welch was the policyholder covered to drive any car, but Mr Welch was a named driver and therefore only covered to drive the family car and not the borrowed Vectra.

The car was stopped by police on the A456 in Worcestershire last August and Welch was subsequently charged with driving with no insurance and no MoT.

Welch admitted both charges but, in a rare ”special reasons hearing”, his solicitor, David Dedman, argued that the licence should not be endorsed with the usual six penalty points for the offence of having no insurance.

“This was an honest mistake” said Mr Dedman.

“He genuinely believed he was insured and was misled by his wife, not deliberately or intentionally.”

Magistrates granted Welch an absolute discharge on the matter of no insurance. They imposed no penalty points, but he was ordered to pay costs of £85. He was fined a further £100 for the offence of driving a vehicle with no MoT test certificate.

Chariman of the Bench, David Callum, said: “We accept you did not intend to drive without insurance.”