Jim Devine denies lying in TV interview

A former MP accused of fiddling his expenses today denied in court that he lied in a television interview to give an "air of authenticity" to his claims.







Jim Devine, 57, who held a seat in the House of Commons for Livingston in Scotland, is on trial at Southwark Crown Court for falsely claiming almost £9,000 from the public purse.



The former Labour backbencher says he requested invoices from his stationery company because he believed he was allowed to transfer money from his communications allowance in order to cover staffing costs.



Cross-examining Devine, prosecutor Peter Wright QC referred to an interview given by Devine to Channel 4 News on February 5 last year, the day he was charged with false accounting.



Facing questions from the presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Devine was asked: "So what about the stationery receipts?"



The former MP told the journalist that there was an order for some leaflets with his stationery company Armstrong Printing, with whom he had an account, at the time.



Mr Wright said, in fact, all of the money went towards staffing costs, and the receipts did not relate to any stationery orders.



He said: "But the money in its entirety went towards the payment of this lady that you will not name.



"You knew it wasn't anything to do with the leaflets."



Devine told the court: "I couldn't remember whether it was two receipts or it was three."



The prosecutor put it to Devine: "Or was it that you were just trying to get a partial, inaccurate and untruthful account of what you had been up to, which had an air of authenticity about it."



Devine said: "No."



The former psychiatric nurse and union official is on trial facing two charges of false accounting.



The first count alleges that, between July 2008 and May 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services from Tom O'Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning Services.



The second count alleges that between March 2009 and April 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery from Armstrong Printing using false invoices.



Devine of West Main Street, Bathgate, West Lothian, denies both charges.









Devine asked the retired secretary of Armstrong Limited, Jennifer McCrea, to mark two invoices "received with thanks", when the jobs were never completed or paid for.



She did not stamp them, but she passed them up to her manager William Lochie, who did.



Mr Wright said one of the false receipts, with an order for 20,000 questionnaires, was deliberately designed by Devine to correspond to an identical legitimate order that he made previously.



The prosecutor said: "You were trying to conceal what had gone on under a guise of a legitimate transaction with Armstrong Limited."



Devine denied that.



Mr Wright said the answers the former MP gave to the television interviewer did not match with what he actually did.



"Is it that you were just saying what came into your head at any particular time?" he asked.



Devine replied: "No."



The prosecutor added: "You thought you could brazen it out."



During the interview, Devine refers to a receipt for some cleaning which was carried out at his London home, but Mr Wright said Devine had previously said in evidence that he had destroyed it.



The barrister said: "But I thought you had shredded it?"



After Mr Justice Saunders, the trial judge, intervened to clarify, Devine said he was referring to a receipt that he was previously given, and had since shredded, and that it was not in his possession at the time of the interview.



Mr Wright asked: "Mr Devine, are you just making this up as you go along?"



"No, absolutely not," Devine said.



The prosecutor said: "Why did you say you had a receipt when you didn't?



"This is all simply made up."



But Devine replied: "No, absolutely not."









Addressing the court in his closing speech, Mr Wright explained the indictment has now been split into three counts.



The first count is in respect of two Tom O'Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning invoices of £180 each.



Mr Wright said that Devine's defence is that these invoices were written by Mr O'Donnell in respect of work carried out by a polish cleaner called Larissa.



Count two refers to three other invoices on Tom O'Donnell-headed paper for £360, £360 and £2,160.



These receipts, Devine said, were written out by a group of cleaners and maintenance staff on spare blank Tom O'Donnell invoices. The work was not done by employees of Mr O'Donnell, but by a second woman called Larissa, her boyfriend Tommy and her brother Arthur.



The amounts in counts two and three equal the £3,240 which previously made up the former second count on the indictment.



The new third count is identical to the previous second count, involving the invoices for Armstrong Printing Limited for £5,505.



Mr Wright said to the jury: "We say, and we invite you to consider, that the verdict in each of the counts is the same. Guilty."



The barrister continued: "Let's consider the principles of governance, the principles of conduct in public life."



Referring to the guide MPs are given to help with their expenses claims, he said: "They are reflected in the contents of the Green Book.



"Mr Devine says he was unaware of them. We say that's nonsense."



After outlining the principles of honesty and openness that MPs are expected to show when in office, he asked: "Well, was that the conduct of Jim Devine MP, as far as those invoices were concerned?"







Mr Wright said: "What he was engaged in was dishonest. It was fraud on the public purse and he knew it.



"It was a fraud that started out small and once he was satisfied that he could get away with it, it got even greater.



"£180 became £360. And then after that, £2,400, then £3,105."



Mr Wright explained that Mr O'Donnell would not have suspected Devine was up to anything dishonest when he gave him one blank invoice.



He said the publican was a friend of Devine's and he trusted him as an MP.



Mr Wright said Devine has invented a number of characters to support his case, including the group of cleaners and a woman he said did some research work for him, whom Mr Wright called "Miss X".



He said: "Larissa, Tommy and Arthur did not exist.



"If Miss X existed, it would not have made much difference. It was still a false document to obtain money to which he was not entitled.



"It's as much a figment of Mr Devine's imagination as a great deal of this case."



The barrister said the jury should not see MPs such as Devine as a "special category of people", and they should be treated like anybody else.



He said: "Mr Devine remains in a minority of one, because each and every time someone was asked as a witness, or an MP was brought along to give an account, it doesn't bear much resemblance to his memory of events."



The trial was adjourned to tomorrow at 10am, when Gavin Millar QC will address the jury to close the defence case, and Mr Justice Saunders will sum up the case.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'