Ex-MEP Peter Skinner jailed for expenses fraud

media captionPeter Skinner arrived at court to be told he would be jailed

An MEP who dishonestly claimed about £100,000 in expenses with a "sustained pattern of stealing" has been jailed for four years.

Peter Skinner, 56, who was Labour MEP for the South East from 1999 to 2014, was found guilty of three charges after a trial at Southwark Crown Court.

He claimed thousands of pounds for support staff, which actually funded jewellery, restaurants and hotel stays.

Sentencing Skinner, of Snodland, Kent, the judge said he had abused trust.

The politician made fraudulent payments of £10,000 a month to his wife from December 2007 until July 2009.

This entitled him to claim secretarial or parliamentary assistance allowance.

'Damaged public trust'

He also created a fake letter claiming his father was working for him, to justify his payments of £5,000 every three months, his trial heard.

In total Skinner claimed £480,000 in expenses, about £100,000 of that was fraudulent.

Kent Police said he paid for a honeymoon to the United States and Hawaii for his second marriage.

During sentencing, Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, said: "You were trusted by the public and you abused that trust.

"You have not only damaged public trust in individual parliamentarians but also in the democratic institution itself.

"This was a breach of trust of the worst kind - this was a sustained pattern of stealing from the taxpayer."

He was found guilty of one count of making a false instrument, one count of fraud and one count of false accounting.

He now faces a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

A Labour spokesman said: "Peter Skinner has clearly not upheld the high standards we would expect of an elected representative, he is no longer a member of the Labour Party."

At the scene: Piers Hopkirk, BBC South East Today

Smartly dressed in a grey suit, former South East MEP Peter Skinner showed no emotion as he was sentenced to four years in prison.

The judge, Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, said she accepted the prosecution's figures that the 56-year-old had defrauded the European Parliament of thousands.

As he arrived at Southwark Crown Court for sentence this morning I asked him if he had anything to say to the people who had voted for him.

He said: "Obviously I have some worries about public trust in politicians but that is all I can say."

Asked if he was worried about going to prison he did not answer.

Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly stated that the sum involved was £500,000 rather than £100,000. An incorrect reference to Skinner buying a Land Rover for his ex-wife has also been removed.

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