British lawmaker jailed for fiddling expenses

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A British court on Thursday jailed a lawmaker for one year and convicted a second of fiddling his expenses, in the latest prosecutions of parliamentarians following an allowances scandal.

Eric Illsley, a former member of the lower house of parliament for the opposition Labour party, was handed a 12-month jail term after pleading guilty to dishonestly claiming more than £14,000 (16,600 euros, $22,600).

Earlier on Thursday, Jim Devine, also a former Labour MP, was found guilty at the same London court for submitting fake claims for cleaning and printing work worth £8,385.

Four lawmakers have now been convicted over the expenses scandal and Illsley was the second to be jailed.

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.

Illsley, 55, who represented the northern English constituency of Barnsley, admitted to inflating or inventing claims relating to his second home in London for a range of services including insurance, repairs and council tax.

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

Sentencing Illsley at Southwark Crown Court, judge John Saunders said the fake claims had "tarnished the reputation of politicians and parliament."

"It is vital that people feel able to trust our legislators and their use of public funds," he said.

A jury at the court had earlier convicted Devine of submitting fake claims for cleaning and printing work worth £8,385.

The 57-year-old, who represented the Scottish constituency of Livingston, was convicted on two counts but was cleared on a third. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Ex-Labour MP David Chaytor was the first to be jailed over the scandal. He was sentenced to 18 months in January after pleading guilty to making false claims.

John Taylor, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, was last month found guilty of falsely claiming for travel and overnight subsistence payments. He is awaiting sentencing.

© 2011 AFP

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