Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Former Labour minister Denis MacShane jailed for six months over bogus expenses claims

Mr Justice Sweeney told the ex-Europe Minister that his dishonesty had been 'considerable and repeated'

The former Labour MP and minister, Denis MacShane, was today jailed for six months for a flagrant breach of trust in making false expense claims of nearly £13,000.

Mr Justice Sweeney told the ex-Europe Minister that his dishonesty had been “considerable and repeated” and that he had no-one to blame but himself for the jail term.

MacShane, 65, said “cheers” as the sentence was delivered before adding “Quelle surprise” as he was led from the dock at the Old Bailey.

The former MP previously pleaded guilty to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for “research and translation” services. MacShane, 65, used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

Mr Justice Sweeney said that he accepted that MacShane had been subjected to a prolonged period of public humiliation aggravated by the fact that he was first told that he would not be prosecuted. His guilty plea followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.

But the judge said that an essential part of the expenses system at the time was that MPs were “invariably treated as honest trustworthy people” and expenses were made using genuine documents.

“Yet you acted in flagrant breach of that trust,” said Mr Justice Sweeney. "The deception used was calculated and designed.”

The MP will serve three months in prison before his release on licence and was ordered to pay costs of £1,500.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the standards commissioner in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the general manager's signature was not genuine. One message, dated October 2009, said he drew funds from the EPI 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.

MacShane, 65, who served as Europe minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed. Police then reopened the inquiry and he was charged in May.