Former South Yorkshire MP to be sentenced over fake expenses receipts

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Shamed former South Yorkshire MP Denis MacShane will discover today whether he is to spend Christmas behind bars.

The former Labour MP for Rotherham is to be sentenced after admitting making bogus expense claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for ‘research and translation’ services and used the cash to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

Following his admission at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Sweeney told him that ‘all sentencing options’ remained open to the court.

The maximum jail term available is seven years

MacShane’s guilty plea followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider expenses 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 missive, dated October 2009, told how 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.

MacShane, aged 65, 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 probe in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May - even though the letters are still not thought to be admissible in court.

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

He is understood to accept that he made a ‘grotesque mistake’, but argues there was no personal gain from the claims.

MacShane has insisted that he told police ‘everything and more’ that he told the Standards Commissioner before the criminal case was initially dropped.