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Ex-MP David Chaytor begins prison term for £22k expenses fraud

Britain's Parliamentary expenses scandal entered its final chapter in a criminal court room yesterday as David Chaytor became the first MP to be sent to prison for defrauding the taxpayer.

Chaytor bowed his head as Mr Justice Saunders told him that the public had the right to expect that lawmakers would themselves be honest and that he had brought “humiliation” on himself.

The last time Chaytor (61) had appeared in court — to plead guilty to three charges under the theft act — he was booed and hustled as he left.

Yesterday, he wasn't even allowed this ignominy. He was led to the cells by a security guard to start his 18-month sentence.

“It is argued that I should conclude that Mr Chaytor has already suffered enough for what he has done,” Justice Saunders said while sentencing him.

“He has been vilified by the public and lost his position as an MP. His family, as well as he, have suffered and will continue to suffer from his public downfall.”

Mr Justice Saunders added that while the former Labour MP for Bury North may have played only a small part in the erosion of |public confidence that resulted from the expenses scandal it was important because he had been dishonest.

“These kind of offences are difficult to detect because of the trust that is placed on the individual to be honest.

“When they are discovered it is necessary that serious penalties should follow. That is the only way in which the public's faith in the system can be restored and maintained.”

Earlier Mr Chaytor, sat behind a glass screen in the defence box of Southwark Crown Court and listened as Peter Wright, prosecuting, outlined the case against him.

Mr Wright said that Chaytor had tried to claim a total of £22,650 in false expenses over a two-year period of which he had been paid £18,350 by the House of Commons authorities.

These included £15,275 in rent for a property in London which |he claimed he was renting off |his daughter and £5,425 rent for a house near Bury which was owned by his elderly mother — who at the time was in a care home suffering from dementia.

In both cases Chaytor signed false tenancy agreements, Mr Wright said, and no money was paid either to his mother or daughter.

Chaytor also created two false invoices for “consultancy fees” from a local Labour party worker Paul France for £1,950 of computer work — labelled ‘with thanks'.

However when contacted by police, Mr France said he had never submitted any invoice to Chaytor or been paid for the work.

James Sturman, defending, said Chaytor had already paid back more than the money he owed to the Parliamentary authorities.

“He did not set out to enrich himself and the sums he received if he had gone about it honestly would have been broadly similar. This was inexplicable stupidity.”

Mr Sturman called on the judge not to “sate the call of the Newgate mob” by delivering “the final kicking of a man while he was down” and sending him to prison.

It was a plea that fell on deaf ears.

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