MacShane 'should not go to prison'

Banbury Cake: Disgraced ex-minister Denis MacShane is to be sentenced on Monday over bogus expenses claims of nearly 13,000 Disgraced ex-minister Denis MacShane is to be sentenced on Monday over bogus expenses claims of nearly 13,000

Disgraced former Labour minister Denis MacShane should be spared a jail sentence, his barrister told a judge today.

The former minister for Europe may face prison after admitting making bogus expenses claims amounting to nearly £13,000.

The ex-MP pleaded guilty last month to false accounting by filing 19 fake receipts for "research and translation" services.

He used the money to fund a series of trips to Europe, including one to judge a literary competition in Paris.

Mr Justice Sweeney at the Old Bailey heard the case outlined to him by the prosecution and then Mark Milliken-Smith QC put the case for MacShane.

He told the judge: "The court should pass a sentence which does not require the loss of his liberty."

The judge said he would sentence MacShane on Monday at 10am and warned him: "I am giving you no indication whatever as to what the sentence is going to be."

He renewed his unconditional bail.

The maximum jail term available is seven years.

MacShane's guilty plea last month followed more than four years of scrutiny into his use of Commons allowances.

Parliamentary authorities began looking at his claims in 2009 when the wider scandal engulfed Westminster, and referred him to Scotland Yard within months.

But the principle of parliamentary privilege meant detectives were not given access to damning correspondence with the standards commissioner - in which MacShane detailed how signatures on receipts from the European Policy Institute (EPI) had been faked.

The body was controlled by MacShane and the general manager's signature was not genuine. One missive, dated October 2009, told how he drew funds from the EPI so he could serve on a book judging panel in Paris.

It was not until after police dropped the case last year that the cross-party Standards Committee published the evidence in a report that recommended an unprecedented 12-month suspension from the House.

MacShane, 65, who served as Europe minister under Tony Blair, resigned as MP for Rotherham last November before the punishment could be imposed.

Police then reopened their probe in the light of the fresh information and he was charged in May - even though the letters are still not thought to be admissible in court.

The offence of false accounting covered 19 "knowingly misleading" receipts that MacShane filed between January 2005 and January 2008.

Mr Milliken-Smith said there was a key distinction between this case and others involving expenses which had come before the courts.

"The invoices submitted were intended to recoup expenses genuinely incurred," he said.

"This is not put as a case where this was a man seeking to enrich himself by inventing expenses. There was no personal profit."

MacShane's record-keeping had been chaotic, counsel said.

"We submit that this contrasts significantly with previous cases of an ostensibly similar ilk, and should enable the court to conclude that a sentence which does not involve loss of liberty properly reflects these distinctions."

MacShane had suffered shame, opprobrium, and the loss of his life's work and reputation, he added.

He read testimonials to his hard work as a minister, as an MP and for charity.

And he said he had suffered a series of blows in his personal life around the time of the offences, any one of which would have destroyed many people, including the loss of his 25-year-old daughter in a skydiving accident in Australia in 2004.

Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said the case involved incidental expenses recoverable by MacShane in his capacity as an MP.

"He made a claim by the manufacture of false and misleading documents," he said.

Between January 2005 and January 2008 he submitted 19 incidental expenses forms, with a total of £12,900.

"It is clear, we submit, that he knew the invoices were misleading and false. He did not act with probity and transparency."

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