Ex-South Yorkshire MP jailed

Denis MacShane
Denis MacShane
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Disgraced South Yorkshire MP Denis MacShane will be spending Christmas behind bars - after being jailed for six months over fraudulent expenses claims.

MacShane, who represented Labour in Rotherham from 1994 until his resignation in 2012, was sentenced this morning after admitting making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

The 65-year-old previously pleaded guilty to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for ‘research and translation’ services.

He used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

Flanked by two security officers, MacShane, wearing a dark suit with a blue striped tie and glasses, said ‘Cheers’ as the sentence was delivered, before adding, ‘Quelle surprise” as he was led from the dock.

Mr Justice Sweeney told former Europe Minister MacShane his dishonesty had been ‘considerable and repeated many times over a long period’.

“You have no one to blame but yourself,” the judge said.

The judge said MacShane had shown ‘a flagrant breach of trust’ in ‘our priceless democratic system’.

“The deception used was calculated and designed,” he added.

He told MacShane he must serve half his sentence in prison and was ordered to pay costs of £1,500 within two months.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the standards commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the general manager’s signature was not genuine.

One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

It was not until after police dropped the case last year that the cross-party Standards Committee published the evidence in a report that recommended an unprecedented 12-month suspension from the House of Commons.

MacShane, who served as Europe Minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed.

Police then reopened their inquiry in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May.

The offence of false accounting covered 19 ‘knowingly misleading’ receipts that MacShane filed between January 2005 and January 2008, the Old Bailey heard.

The court heard that MacShane incurred ‘genuine expenses’ for similar amounts which he chose to recoup by dishonest false accounting rather than through legitimate claims.

Jailing him, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “However chaotic your general paperwork was, there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years - involving a flagrant breach of trust and consequent damage to Parliament, with correspondingly reduced confidence in our priceless democratic system and the process by which it is implemented and we are governed.”

He said he accepted MacShane’s actions were ‘not committed out of greed or for personal profit’.

The judge said MacShane had suffered ‘a long period of public humiliation’ and carried out the offences ‘at a time of turmoil’ in his personal life.

The court heard that MacShane and his wife divorced in 2003, his daughter Clare was killed in an accident in March 2004, his mother died in 2006 and his former partner - newsreader Carol Barnes - died in 2008.

The judge also considered MacShane’s his previous good character and that the money had been paid back.

Mr SWeeney said: “You must have been aware throughout that it was an essential feature of the expenses system then in operation that Members of Parliament were invariably treated as honest, trustworthy people, and that the unwritten assumption was that only claims for expenses genuinely incurred in accordance with the rules would be made

“Yet you acted in flagrant breach of that trust.”