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Lawbreaker lawmaker

Chaytor: First disgraced British MP jailed for housing scam

Disgraced former MP David Chaytor was jailed on Friday for 18 months for making false Parliamentary expenses claims. Chaytor, 61, was locked up after pleading guilty to three counts of false accounting.
Mitigating, James Sturman QC had earlier begged for him to be spared a prison sentence, claiming his client was a 'broken man'.

Southwark Crown Court heard he submitted bogus invoices to support claims totalling £22,650 for IT consultancy work and renting homes in London and his Bury North constituency. But the properties were owned by him and his mother, and he did not pay out any of his own money.

It is understood Chaytor will be taken to Wandsworth Prison in South-West London. Chaytor, of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty last month to three counts of false accounting between November 2005 and January 2008.

Guilty: David Chaytor arrives at Southwark Crown Court on Friday to be sentenced

The case heaps yet more embarrassment on politicians whose public standing has plummeted ever since details of their lavish expense claims emerged 18 months ago. Other fraud trials are expected to go ahead in the coming months, with two other former MPs, one current MP and two peers facing criminal charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

And the Mail can reveal that Scotland Yard has not ruled out charging more politicians with fraud. It emerged in court on Friday that Chaytor is facing a large bill for both his defence and the costs of bringing the prosecution against him.

Chaytor made the false claims in order to 'siphon off' public money to which he was not entitled, the court heard. He submitted claims totalling £15,275 and was paid £12,925 for renting a flat in Hide Tower in Central London. But it turned out that he and his wife had bought the property in 1999, two years after he was first elected to Parliament, and paid off the mortgage on it in 2003.

Stonehouse and Co

He used the first and two middle names of his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Rastrick, on a bogus shorthold tenancy agreement submitted to the Parliamentary authorities. Chaytor also falsely claimed £5,425 between September 2007 and January 2008 for renting a cottage in Castle Street in Summerseat, near Bury, Lancashire.

A police investigation later revealed that this house was owned by his elderly mother, Olive Trickett.
She had lived in the cottage for about 40 years before her dementia meant she had to move to a care home in May 2007. She died in May 2009, aged 81.

A tenancy agreement was drawn up listing Mrs Trickett's address as Holme Manor, Rossendale, but there was no indication that this was a nursing home. The document, which was apparently signed by both parties in August 2007, was witnessed by a Sarah Fairlead, the married name of Chaytor's daughter.

The final charge related to a £1,950 claim made by Chaytor for IT support services provided in May 2006 by a freelance computer programmer called Paul France who volunteered at his office. This money was never paid to him because he had already exceeded his allowance for this kind of expense, the court was told.

It came as 'something of a surprise' to Mr France when he learned of the claim because he had not billed the former MP for the work, the court heard. The court heard Chaytor has so far repaid £19,237. Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said: 'The claims were fictitious. He had never incurred the consultancy fees, nor had he ever paid any sum in respect of any such alleged service.

'So far as the alleged rental of the properties in London and Summerseat were concerned, they were based entirely on bogus documents and, we submit, were designed by him to siphon money off from the public purse to which he was not entitled.'

He added: 'We say Mr Chaytor knew the rules, and we say why else would he produce false documents in support of his claims otherwise?' The court heard Chaytor was confronted with the evidence about Hide Tower in May 2009 by a journalist who contacted him by email.

He later replied that he had made an 'unforgivable error' in his accounting and offered an 'unreserved apology'. Chaytor was interviewed by police in December and declined to answer questions. He read a prepared statement about the legal challenge regarding Parliamentary privilege. In mitigation, James Sturman QC said Chaytor was a 'broken man' who had already paid a 'quite devastating price' for his errors.

He said Chaytor was entitled to at least as much as he claimed and displayed 'inexplicable stupidity' in submitting the fraudulent documents. 'We submit that the sums he received, if he had gone about it transparently, honestly and frankly, he would have been entitled to every penny, if not more than he claimed,' he said.

'The fact that he would have been entitled to claim for a second property has been somewhat lost in the clamour and hysteria surrounding the case.' Mr Sturman added: 'There is nothing left that is a spark in him at all, except when he talks of his grandchild born before Christmas.

'He accepts he has brought shame on himself, he has brought shame on his family and he has brought shame on Parliament.'

Courtesy Daily Mail, UK

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