UK Politics

Ex-MP Elliot Morley jailed for expenses fraud

Elliot Morley
Image caption Elliot Morley was a government minister under Tony Blair

Former Labour minister Elliot Morley has been sentenced to 16 months in jail for dishonestly claiming more than £30,000 in parliamentary expenses.

He pleaded guilty last month to making excessive claims for mortgage costs from 2004 to 2007 and claiming for a mortgage that had been paid off.

Sentencing him, Mr Justice Saunders said he had "thrown away his good name and good character".

Morley, MP for Scunthorpe since 1987, stepped down at the general election.

As a former environment minister, he is the most senior politician to plead guilty to expenses fraud.

'Tragic' case

When the allegations against him first surfaced, he claimed it had been a genuine mistake and said he would prove that he was not guilty of deception.

But the Crown Prosecution Service said Morley's behaviour had been "blatantly dishonest".

Sentencing him, the judge Mr Justice Saunders said: "I am satisfied from the nature of the mortgage transactions and the correspondence that the excessive claims were made deliberately and are not explicable even in part by oversight."

The 58-year-old pleaded guilty to two charges of false accounting under the Theft Act.

He claimed £15,200 in mortgage claims - when he was only entitled to £1,572 - and submitted claims for £16,800 towards a mortgage on a property near Scunthorpe - after it had been paid off.

He wrongly filled out a total of 40 forms relating to mortgage payments.

Mr Justice Saunders acknowledged that Morley had been "a positive force for good" during his time as a minister and had done "a great deal to promote the green agenda".

He described the case as "tragic for the defendant and his family" and said Morley had "thrown away his good name and good character".

He said he accepted the fraud in Morley's case was not as "sophisticated" as that of another former Labour MP, David Chaytor, and therefore, his sentence was slightly lower.

Chaytor was jailed for 18 months in jail in January for fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in expenses by submitting bogus invoices for IT consultancy work and claiming rent he never paid.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Elliot Morley had already been suspended from the Labour Party and following his custodial sentence he has now been excluded from the party."

Complaint to prison

Morley was the third former Labour MP to plead guilty to expenses fraud, along with Eric Illsley, who received a 12-month sentence, and Chaytor.

A fourth Labour MP, Jim Devine, was the only one to stand trial but was jailed for 16 months in March after being found guilty.

Lawyers for Devine have made a formal complaint to the governor of Belmarsh prison, where he is being held, because they argue he should be moved to a lower security insititution.

Gerald Shamash said his client's incarceration in Belmarsh - which houses high risk, Category A prisoners, - was "taking its toll", and as a low risk, Category D inmate he should have already been transferred.

In response, a Prison Service spokesman said: "Prisoners may be allocated to any prison in England and Wales according to the offence, sentence, security category and individual circumstances."

"When a prisoner is recategorised the Prison Service will allocate them to a suitable establishment as soon as there is space available."

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