January 7, 2011 / 4:20 PM / 7 years ago

First MP jailed for expenses fraud

<p>Former Labour MP David Chaytor passes a City of London police officer as he leaves the Old Bailey court, in central London December 3, 2010.Toby Melville</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - A former MP was jailed for 18 months on Friday for falsifying his expenses, the first parliamentarian to be convicted over a 2009 scandal that engulfed the nation's political system.

Hundreds of MPs were ordered to repay a total of more than 1 million pounds in the wake of the expenses scandal which caused widespread anger and an overhaul of the system.

Newspaper revelations showed MPs had made claims for items ranging from toilet paper to dog food, moat cleaning and ornamental duck houses, tainting members of all major parties.

David Chaytor, 61, who had been an MP in northern England, admitted at an earlier hearing to fraudulently claiming more than 20,000 pounds in taxpayer-funded expenses.

The judge, Justice John Saunders, said Chaytor had breached the trust placed in MPs by the public and had subsequently been vilified and humiliated.

"That is an inevitable consequence for people who aspire to and achieve important public positions together with the influence which goes with those positions and who then defraud the public who elected them," he said.

"The public understandably feel cheated by what has happened."

<p>Press photographers chase the prison van thought to be carrying former Labour M.P. David Chaytor leaves Southwark Crown Court, in London January 7, 2011.Paul Hackett</p>

The former Labour Party MP had claimed 22,650 pounds for rent for houses owned by himself and by his mother, and also for IT services that he had received free of change.

As a result, he was paid 18,350 pounds from the public purse, all of which he has now repaid.

<p>The prison van thought to be carrying former Labour M.P. David Chaytor leaves Southwark Crown Court, in London January 7, 2011.Paul Hackett</p>

Following the sentencing, Chaytor was expelled from the Labour Party, the Press Association reported.

Chaytor, who had previously denied the charges, faced a maximum of seven years in jail, but had been expected to receive a more lenient sentence because of his eventual guilty plea.

He will also have to foot the legal bill for both his defence and the costs of bringing the prosecution against him.

At the time the expenses row broke, Chaytor, apologised "unreservedly" for what he called an "unforgivable error in my accounting procedures."

Three other former MPs and two members of the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, were also charged by police in relation to their expenses and are due to face trial.

Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by Jason Neely

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