Denis MacShane jailed for MP expenses fraud
- 23 December 2013
- From the section UK Politics
Former MP Denis MacShane has been jailed for six months for expenses fraud after admitting submitting 19 fake receipts amounting to £12,900.
He is the fifth MP to get a prison sentence after 2009's expenses scandal.
MacShane, 65, was a Labour MP for 18 years and served as Europe minister under Tony Blair between 2002 and 2005.
Mr Justice Sweeney said MacShane had "deliberately created misleading and deceptive invoices", and "considerable" dishonesty was involved.
Flanked by two security officers, MacShane, wearing a dark suit with a blue striped tie and glasses, said "cheers" as the sentence was delivered, before adding, "quelle surprise" as he was led from the dock.
The judge told the former Rotherham MP "you have no one to blame but yourself" after showing "a flagrant breach of trust" in "our priceless democratic system" with "the deception used... calculated and designed".
MacShane must serve at least half his sentence in prison. He was ordered to pay costs of £1,500 within two months.
MacShane had maintained that he did not profit from the money, saying the fake claims had covered legitimate expenditure on trips to Europe and that he had repaid the money.
The judge said in his sentencing remarks he accepted MacShane's contention that there was no personal profit made and said his case was different to other parliamentarians who had been sentenced to prison in connection with "wholly false" claims.
MacShane, he said, had incurred genuine expenses which he could have legitimately claimed for "but you chose instead to recoup by dishonest false accounting".
He said that however "chaotic" MacShane's record-keeping and general paperwork, "there was deliberate, oft repeated and prolonged dishonesty over a period of years".
Parliamentary authorities referred MacShane to Scotland Yard within months of MPs' expense claims being leaked to the Daily Telegraph, but the police initially decided not to take action against him.
The principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to correspondence with the parliamentary standards commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute had been faked.
The institute was a body controlled by MacShane, and the general manager's signature was not genuine. One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the Institute 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 of Commons.
That led to the police reopening their investigation in November 2012, as a result of the new evidence coming to light.
Hoax call at BBC
MacShane was born Denis Matyjaszek in Glasgow but took his mother's maiden name early in his professional life.
He went on to study at Merton College, Oxford, before later getting a PhD in economics from Birkbeck College in London.
After university MacShane joined the BBC in 1969, working as a presenter and reporter in local radio. While at the BBC he failed in an attempt to get elected to Parliament, standing in October 1974 in Solihull.
His career at the BBC ended after eight years years when he was forced to resign after making a hoax call to a programme accusing the former Conservative home secretary Reginald Maudling of being a crook.
He bounced back to become president of the National Union of Journalists and in the 1980s, he worked as policy director of the Geneva-based International Metalworkers Federation.
In that role he travelled to a variety of different countries to support pro-democracy movements, including Poland's Solidarity movement - an involvement which led to a brief spell in prison in Warsaw.
He has written a number of books, including ones about Solidarity, former French President Francois Mitterrand, Kosovo and Ted Heath.
MacShane, who founded the European Policy Institute in 1992, became an MP in 1994 when he was elected as Labour MP for Rotherham.
He was best known in government for his pro-European views during Tony Blair's second term as PM, but he was sacked after the 2005 election.
Although he said he had no idea why he lost his job, remarks in which he had described Gordon Brown's tests for joining a single currency as a "giant red herring" were thought to have played a part.
MacShane initially denied the comments, made to students in Durham, but they were recorded and played back live on TV.
Made a privy counsellor in 2005 he became a UK delegate to both the Council of Europe and the Nato Parliamentary Assembly and went on to chair the inquiry panel of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism.
MacShane, who has four children from two marriages, spoke out against phone hacking and received £32,500 in damages from News International for his privacy being breached after his daughter Clare - whose mother was the TV newsreader Carol Barnes - died in a skydiving accident in 2004.
Four other MPs and two peers have been sent to prison as a result of the expenses revelations from 2009. One further MP, Labour's Margaret Moran was given a supervision order instead after suffering mental health problems.