DISGRACED former Labour MP Eric Illsley was jailed for a year today for fiddling his expenses.
For full story, reaction and more, see The Star tomorrow.
Illsley, aged 55, who represented Barnsley, was sentenced at London’s Southwark Crown Court where his defence appealed for a non custodial sentence.
His case was different to other MPs because he didn’t fabricate invoices or implicate his family, said his barrister.
It was also revealed that his wife was undergoing cancer treatment.
The judge, in passing sentence, said Illsely was hitherto a good man but had tarnished the reputation of parliament.
It was a credit to him that he had been so frank about what he did.
Illsley was expressionless as he was led down to the cells.
The former MP’s defence had described him as already ruined, with no way back at his age, saying Illsley had been a good man, reliable, with high integrity, helpful, caring and conscientious.
Neither was he the whistleblower, despite some reports, and he should not be sentenced with that accusation, the court heard.
The Crown did not seek compensation because he had offered to repay the £14,500 in question.
Illsley faced massive pressure to stand down as the member for Barnsley Central after he pleaded guilty last month to dishonestly claiming some £14,500 of public money.
But he did not quit as an MP until Tuesday night and is believed to have received about £5,400 from his £65,000-a-year parliamentary salary since admitting the offences.
Illsley became the first sitting MP convicted for abusing expenses when he changed his pleas to guilty at the start of his trial on January 11.
He had previously denied dishonestly claiming a total of more than £25,000, arguing that lax Commons allowances were designed to “supplement” the income of politicians.
But his barrister William Coker QC said his client admitted wrongly obtaining a revised sum of about £14,500.
The claims were made for council tax, telephone usage, service charges and maintenance, and insurance and repairs at his second home in Renfrew Road, Kennington, south London.
Illsley, of Westmoor Crescent, Pogmoor, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to three charges of false accounting relating to three years of expenses on his London property.
Prosecutor Peter Wright QC said the Crown accepted the revised figure for the dishonest claims.
Despite the questions hanging over his expenses, Illsley was re-elected last May with a majority of more than 11,000.
He could theoretically have stayed on as a MP with a jail term of less than 12 months.
However, following calls for him to go from both Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband, he expressed “deep regret” over his actions and said he would quit before the court decided his fate.
The by-election for Illsley’s Barnsley Central seat is expected to be held on March 3.
Former Labour MP David Chaytor - who stood down at the general election - last month became the first person to be jailed over the expenses scandal.
He was given an 18-month sentence after admitting he forged tenancy documents and invoices to falsely claim more than £22,000 of taxpayers’ money from House of Commons authorities for rent and IT work.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said Illsley is paying the price for making a mistake.
Mr Balls was speaking as he campaigned in the disgraced MP’s Barnsley Central seat with his successor as the Labour Party candidate, former Army officer Dan Jarvis.
He said: “Eric was a good friend of mine.
“I think he fought hard for this town over a number of years but he made a mistake and he’s paying a big price for that.
“I think people will say, I’m afraid rightly so, we’ve got to move on now.
“The question is who can best stand up for Barnsley at a time of big cuts to spending.”
Mr Balls said: “I had seen him in Westminster and think it’s hard and it’s tough but he also knows a mistake was made and you pay a price for that and that’s right and proper.
“I think the important thing here in Barnsley is that people aren’t left now without an MP at a time when there is real pressure.”