Jailed ex-Tory peer Lord Hanningfield loses appeal

Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield was found guilty of six charges of false accounting

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A jailed former Tory peer has lost an appeal against his conviction for fiddling parliamentary expenses.

Lord Hanningfield, who was found guilty of six counts of false accounting, had his case rejected by the Court of Appeal, after he argued the original trial judge had misdirected the jury.

The 70-year-old former leader of Essex County Council claimed almost £14,000 for overnight stays in London, when he was actually elsewhere.

He is serving a nine-month sentence.

On 1 July Lord Hanningfield became the sixth parliamentarian to be imprisoned for fraud following the expenses scandal - after ex-Tory peer Lord Taylor and former Labour MPs Eric Illsley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Elliot Morley.

'Averaged out'

Lord Hanningfield's application for permission to appeal against his conviction was heard by Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Blake.

His main argument was that the original trial judge had misdirected the jury over an element in his defence - that he believed he had been entitled to make the claims as they conformed with the accepted custom and practice of the Lords at the time.

But Lord Justice Hughes said: "We are entirely satisfied that, however sad the background to this case may be, and however sad may be the end of what was otherwise a distinguished career in public service, this jury did receive an accurate direction in law.

"It faced, and had to face, the question of whether it believed or rejected the defendant's assertions of belief and, sadly, it is plain that it rejected them."

After his conviction at Chelmsford Crown Court in May, judge Mr Justice Saunders said the peer, a former Lords opposition frontbench spokesman, would now be partly remembered as a "benefits cheat".

However, the jury heard that Lord Hanningfield was in poor health and had been diagnosed with clinical depression.

The former pig farmer said he had treated the Lords expenses for staying overnight in London as an allowance for living outside the capital and spent just "a minute a month" completing his claim forms.

He insisted his parliamentary duties had left him thousands of pounds out of pocket and said he had "averaged out" his claims to recoup some of the money he spent.

At the time peers, who are not paid a salary, were able to claim up to £174-a-night when attending Parliament if their main home was outside London.

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