Former Labour MP David Chaytor has been jailed for 18 months after admitting to three charges of expenses fraud.
The ex MP for Bury North obtained around £20,000 of taxpayer’s money by claiming rent and mortgage payments he was not entitled to and submitting bogus invoices for IT work.
Chaytor claimed almost £13,000 in rent for a property he himself owned, he also claimed £5,500 to rent a cottage owned by his mother and submitted a bogus invoice for work that he had not been billed for. He had been due to be the first politician to stand trial over the recent expenses scandal but changed his plea to guilty days before it started.
Sentencing him Mr Justice Saunders said the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal had “shaken public confidence in the legislature and angered the public”. Mr Saunders added “significant penalties should follow so people realise how important it is for people to be honest in dealing with public funds”.
Chaytor was one of a group of ex-Labour MPs who tried to escape prosecution by citing a centuries old law. In October last year, along with Labour party colleagues Jim Devine and Elliot Morley, he failed in a high court bid to have the alleged theft cases handled by parliament.
Jim Devine is the former Scottish Labour MP who is alleged to have used false invoices to claim a total of £8,740 in cleaning services and office stationery. The former Labour MP for Livingston faces two charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting.
The first count alleges that between July 2008 and April 2009 Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices. The second count alleges that in March 2009 Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery again using false invoices. Devine has pled not guilty and will face trial later this year.
In November last year Devine hit the headlines after he failed to pay his ex-office manager Marion Kinley any money despite an employment tribunal Judge ordering compensation of £35,000 after she won a case of constructive dismissal against the former Labour MP.
Other Labour MPs facing prosecution include Denis MacShane who was reported to police after it emerged that he had claimed for EIGHT laptop computers in three years and claimed £125,000 over a seven year period for using his garage as an office. Mr MacShane, a former Labour Minister, also submitted invoices from an organisation called the “European Policy Institute” (EPI); it later emerged that EPI is controlled by Mr MacShane’s brother.
Labour MP Margaret Moran was also reportedly facing charges over her own expense claims. The former MP for Luton South was under investigation for several months last year after it was suspected she had made claims for work which was not conducted at the property designated as her second home and that some invoices may have been tampered with.
One receipt, for more than £14,000 for a replacement boiler at her Luton property, was said to have come from a company which is not registered and the VAT number provided on the invoice was not valid. Police contacted the person who lived at the address stipulated on the invoice who denied carrying out any work at the former Labour MP’s address.
The sentence of Chaytor comes less than a week before voters go to the polls in the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election which was caused by the disqualification of former Labour MP Phil Woolas for knowingly lying about his Lib Dem opponent.
Chaytor is expected to start his sentence in Wandsworth prison.