Jailed MP says he was 'trashed on internet'

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The Independent Online

A former MP jailed for expenses fraud has raised doubts from behind bars over the fairness of his conviction.

Jim Devine, who was imprisoned for 16 months for falsely claiming £8,385, queried whether the jurors in his case had obeyed an instruction not to look for information about him online.

In a letter to the prisoners' newspaper, Converse, he said: "Along with my parliamentary colleagues, my public and private reputation was trashed on the internet.

"At the start of my trial the judge told the jury not to trawl the internet looking for stories about myself – does anyone believe that every juror followed that instruction?

"I know several senior MPs that are very concerned about the ability of an individual to receive a fair trial in the internet age."

Devine, 58, who stood down at the last election as the Labour MP for Livingston, was found guilty in February of dishonestly claiming for cleaning and printing work by submitting fake invoices. The trial judge, Mr Justice Saunders, said the former MP had been "lying in significant parts of the evidence he gave" and had set about "defrauding the public purse in a calculated and deliberate way".

Devine was initially sent to Belmarsh prison, south-east London, before being transferred to the lower-security Standford Hill in Kent.

He claimed he knew of at least 10 inmates at Belmarsh who thought "tabloid reporting" had jeopardised their chances of a fair trial.