Former MP jailed in UK parliamentary expenses scandal

A FORMER British politician has been jailed for 18 months for making false expenses claims while he was an MP.

David Chaytor, 61, is the first UK politician to be convicted and sentenced over a scandal which rocked the country’s parliament.

The former MP for the now opposition Labour party, submitted bogus invoices to support claims totalling ₤22,650 pounds ($35,335) for computer services and rent on homes in London and his Bury constituency in northwest England.

But he and his mother already owned the properties and he did not pay out any of his own money, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.

Chaytor pleaded guilty last month to three counts of false accounting after changing his plea shortly before his trial was due to start.

In passing sentence, Judge John Saunders told Chaytor that jailing him was a crucial step in restoring public faith in the parliamentary system which was shaken by the expenses scandal in 2009.

The judge said: “These false claims were made in breach of the high degree of trust placed in MPs to only make legitimate claims.

“These offences have wider and more important consequences than is to be found in other breach of trust cases.

“That is the effect they have had and will have on the confidence the public has in politicians.”

His lawyer James Sturman said Chaytor was a “broken man” who had paid a “devastating price” for his claims.

He is the first former politician to be jailed since Conservative peer and top-selling author Jeffrey Archer received a four-year sentence for perjury and perverting the course of justice in 2001.

Chaytor could however leave jail as soon as May under rules which allow non-violent prisoners who pose a low risk to be released early.

The former college lecturer stood down from parliament at the general election last year having been barred by Labour from standing for the party again after stories about his claims emerged.

The court heard that after a journalist confronted Chaytor with the evidence about the housing claims, he replied that he had made an “unforgivable error” in his accounting and offered an “unreserved apology”.

Dozens of politicians were caught up in the expenses scandal after The Daily Telegraph newspaper obtained details of claims for everything from widescreen TVs to an ornamental duck house for one lawmaker’s garden.

But the worst abuses came in claims for housing which sometimes amounted to tens of thousands of pounds over a number of year.

Two other former politicians, one current politician and two members of the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, are to face trial over their expenses claims.

Expenses were a hot issue in campaigning for May’s election, which saw Gordon Brown’s Labour swept from power to be replaced with a coalition government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative.

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