Peer jailed over expenses fraud
Published 01/07/2011 | 15:22
A shamed former Tory peer is starting a nine-month prison sentence after being found guilty of fiddling his parliamentary expenses.
Lord Hanningfield falsely claimed for nearly £14,000 for overnight stays in London when he was not in the capital. His expenses-fiddling included one occasion in February 2008 when he was actually on board a flight to India.
The peer, who was convicted of six counts of false accounting in May, showed no emotion as he was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court. He immediately lodged an appeal against the conviction.
The 70-year-old, born Paul White, now faces an investigation by parliamentary authorities into his expenses claims, which was launched following his conviction in May. But Commissioner for Standards Paul Kernaghan said he would suspend his probe until after the appeal is concluded.
A House of Lords spokesman said: "The Commissioner for Standards, with the agreement of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct, has decided to initiate an investigation into the conduct of Lord Hanningfield in relation to his use of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme.
"In light of the fact that Lord Hanningfield has given notice of his intention to appeal, the matter is still sub judice and the Commissioner's investigation will commence once the judicial process is complete."
He could be freed after serving less than three months of his sentence under early release rules for non-violent prisoners who pose a low risk.
He is the final politician charged in relation to their expenses to be jailed, but more prosecutions could be in the pipeline. Scotland Yard said that a "small number" of other cases involving the expenses of other MPs and Lords are still either being considered by prosecutors or investigated by the police.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Saunders said Lord Hanningfield, an ex-Lords opposition frontbencher and leader of Essex County Council, would now be partly remembered as a "benefits cheat".
The judge said: "Great trust was placed in peers to be honest in their claims for expenses. The public expects no less of them. Lord Hanningfield and others have broken that trust. The consequences for the reputation of the House of Lords have been serious."