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The Jubilee River story - Jim Devine found guilty.

Jim Devine sentenced to 16 months on 31 March 2011

 

Scotsman.com - Scottish news, sport & business headlines direct from Scotland

'Justice has been done, the jury saw through Jim Devine's lies'

Devine could face up to seven years in prison
Devine could face up to seven years in prison

Published Date: 11 February 2011

THE former Labour MP Jim Devine is facing up to seven years in jail after he was found guilty of fiddling his Westminster expenses to falsely claim more than 8,000.
Devine, 57, was convicted on the same day that fellow ex- Labour MP Eric Illsley was jailed for a year for a similar offence that involved dishonestly claiming thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money.

The life and career of Devine lay in tatters at the end of a dramatic day that saw the House of Commons expenses scandal take its toll on two of the politicians who abused the system for their own ends.

Devine nodded as a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty of two charges of false accounting that saw the politician concoct fake receipts to claim public money. The jury cleared him of a third charge.

Devine was granted unconditional bail by the trial judge Mr Justice Saunders. He is expected to be sentenced in four weeks' time for the offence that carries a maximum prison term of seven years.

The disgraced former MP appeared to limp as he made his way from the dock and made no comment as he left the court.

A few hours later Illsley was jailed after he admitted last month to 14,000 of expenses fraud relating to claims that he made for his second home between 2005 and 2008.

After Devine's conviction, Simon Clements, head of the Crown Prosecution Service special crime division, said: "Jim Devine submitted invoices for services that he had neither paid for nor received. In doing so, he took advantage of the trust that had been placed in him by virtue of the public office he held.

"Submitting a false invoice is plainly dishonest, regardless of why it has been done or who has done it. We say there is no excuse for such conduct and, with today's conviction, it is clear the jury agreed."

Prosecuting lawyer Peter Wright, QC, said Devine made the fraudulent claims "to gain for himself, or with an intent to cause loss to another - the public purse".

The jury of six men and six women took two hours and 45 minutes to agree with the prosecution that on the two counts Devine showed a "woeful inadequacy" when it came to abiding by the core principles expected of MPs. Mr Wright said the case against Devine was "very straightforward" and cited the House of Commons' Green Book, which details the rules, regulations and fundamental principles that MPs must follow when submitting expenses.

Profile: A colourful political figure with an eye for the ladies

Background: Public aghast at extravagance

"These are based on concepts of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership," he said, adding that its contents were "wholly unambiguous. It couldn't be clearer".

"We say these are qualities of which Mr Devine demonstrated a woeful inadequacy," Mr Wright said.

Devine's trial was an uncomfortable experience for the former MP, who was accused of contradicting himself on several occasions.

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

"No, absolutely not," was Devine's reply.

During the trial, the court heard that Tom O'Donnell, the landlord of Devine's local pub in London - the Prince of Wales, in Elephant and Castle - arranged for a cleaner and handyman to help the MP with his flat in the capital. The publican provided him with a blank receipt so that he could claim Commons expenses legitimately.

What Mr O'Donnell did not know was that Devine made copies of the receipt and then used them to make three bogus claims for cleaning totalling 2,880.

The jury agreed with the defence case, that Devine had paid for two batches of cleaning work through Tom O'Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning for 180 each.

However, he was found guilty of a second charge, that he got somebody else to complete three invoices from the cleaning company for 360, 360 and 2,160 - totalling 2,880. These cleaning receipts that he copied from one original blank invoice were submitted for his expenses by the former MP between July 2008 and May 2009.

Devine also asked Clackmannanshire printers Armstrong Printing Limited to produce two fictitious receipts totalling 5,505 for stationery and printing.

The receipts, marked "received with thanks" were used to claim expenses and were handed to the Commons Fees Office between March and April 2009.

He claimed the money, but did not hand over any cash to the printers for the two ghost orders worth 2,400 and 3,105.

Devine said he had used the cash to pay staff on the advice of parliamentary colleagues Tom Watson MP and Steve McCabe MP, who had spoken to him in the House of Commons Strangers' Bar. Devine claimed that Mr McCabe had given him a "nod and a wink" during their discussion. Both MPs denied that any such meeting had taken place.

The prosecution said the cash was used to pay off Devine's overdraft saying that it was no coincidence that the disgraced MPs bank account came out of the red around the time that the 2,400 was paid.

Devine even tried to blame his former office manager Marion Kinley, telling the court that his former employee had paid herself extra cash of 1,000 overtime and 4,300 as a bonus without his knowledge. She then went on sick leave.

In an aside, Devine denied that he had an affair with Ms Kinley, with whom he had fallen out spectacularly. Devine claimed he was still paying Ms Kinley after she had gone off sick.

Commenting after the verdict, Ms Kinley said: "Justice has been done. The jury obviously saw through Mr Devine's lies. For legal reasons, I will not be making any further comment at this time."

Devine also said he needed cash to pay a member of staff in his Scottish office who he refused to name. The mysterious employee was called "Miss X" throughout the trial.

Devine explained that he would not name her as he did not want to "grass" on her, because she was claiming benefits at the same time as she was working for him.

When it came to the cleaning claims that Devine made for work on his London flat, the jury were given details of five receipts. Devine told the court the first two invoices for 180 each related to services done by a Polish cleaner called Larissa, employed by Mr O'Donnell. The jury accepted his account for these claims that they were filled in by either Larissa or Mr O'Donnell.

But Mr O'Donnell said he only gave Devine one blank receipt for a previous legitimate job.

Jurors agreed with the prosecution that before Devine filled it in for Mr O'Donnell to verify, the MP made photocopies. He claimed the three photocopied receipts were for work carried out by a team of three people, headed by a different woman, who, by sheer coincidence, was also called Larissa.