British court jails lawmaker over false expenses claims

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British judge on Thursday blasted a lawmaker for committing a "gross breach of trust" in making false expense claims as he jailed the parliamentarian for 16 months.

Jim Devine, a former member of the lower house of parliament for the opposition Labour party, is the third former lawmaker to be jailed over the expenses scandal that has rocked the British political establishment.

The 57-year-old was found guilty last month of submitting fake claims for cleaning and printing work worth worth £8,385 (9,500 euros, $13,450).

Sentencing him at Southwark Crown Court in London, Judge John Saunders criticised the ex-lawmaker for continuing to make false claims even after the scandal had erupted and expenses were under public scrutiny.

"Mr Devine set about defrauding the public purse in a calculated and deliberate way," said the judge.

"These offences constituted a gross breach of trust which, along with others, had had the effect of causing serious damage to the reputation of parliament.

"Mr Devine made his false claims at a time when he well knew the damage that was being caused to parliament by the expenses scandal, but he carried on regardless."

Devine, who has been declared bankrupt since his conviction, had told his trial that he was acting on advice given with a "nod and a wink" by a fellow lawmaker in a bar in parliament.

Dozens of parliamentarians were caught out in 2009 after The Daily Telegraph newspaper published details of claims, revealing how taxpayers' money was used for lawmakers' widescreen TVs, furnishings and even an ornamental duck house.

Under the old expenses system, lawmakers could claim thousands of pounds towards buying, furnishing and renovating a home in the capital. The system has now been changed.

© 2011 AFP

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