The ex-Labour MP, David Chaytor could be released as early as May, despite receiving a prison sentence of 18 months for fiddling expenses. Many are saying that this is too short a period in prison.
Indeed, apart from other MPs, nobody seems to be offering much sympathy to HMP Wandsworth’s latest high profile inmate. They will offer none at all if he comes out having served only a third of his sentence, especially after the judge in the case extended his sentence because of the breach of trust involved.
Chaytor received 18 months but would normally be released after serving half of that.
He won’t stay in the disgusting, Dickensian conditions of Wandsworth for very long either. Indeed, he will quickly be moved to a nice, comfortable open prison where he will not be locked up, have town visits and easily be able to run his business affairs.
Prisoners in closed prisons with real sentences have none of these benefits.
As his offence is neither violent or sexual, he is eligible for Home Detention Curfew and electronic tagging for 16 weeks. He could reduce his sentence even more on appeal, though it is doubtful that he has time to get an appeal into court.
If all goes well for him, he will serve no more than 20 weeks.
TheOpinionSite.org shares the view of many of our visitors that 20 weeks in prison is insufficient, even given Chaytor’s guilty plea and the fact that he has to pay both Defence and Prosecution costs.
However, we also wonder why he has been sent to prison at all given that there are much more serious cases of expense fiddling; notably the discredited Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith who ripped us all off for £60,000 of mortgage allowances and who was never even charged with a criminal offence.
Instead, Smith got off with an apology to the House of Commons in order to save the Labour government further embarrassment. To put a former Home Secretary in jail is beyond that which Parliament is able to endure. After all, Home Secretaries are supposed to put others in prison, not themselves.
The other expense-fiddling MPs and peers who have been charged and gone ‘not guilty’ may get different treatment however.
Courts do not take kindly to people who have been found wanting in public office trying to get off the hook and costing the taxpayer a small fortune in court costs. Unlike Chaytor, the other defendants, Labour MPs Jim Devine and Elliot Morley, and the Tory peer Lord Hanningfield obtained Legal Aid; astonishing really when you consider how much money they have anyway.
TheOpinionSite.org would not be remotely surprised if they changed their plea to ‘guilty’ now that Chaytor has been jailed. He got a discount for his guilty plea; they would not.
There is a bigger point here though. The judge said MPs’ behaviour must be “entirely honest if public confidence in the parliamentary system and rule of law is to be maintained”.
His Lordship is clearly living on a different planet to the rest of us if he thinks MPs will ever be ‘entirely honest’ in anything.
British politics is and always has been based on dishonesty, lies and manipulation of the facts whilst simultaneously trying to appease the tabloid press. MPs are simply incapable of being ‘entirely honest’. If they were honest, they would be crucified by those who enjoy having power and the treasure trove that comes with it.
Given the very heavy sentences that are dished out to the rest of the population, TheOpinionSite.org believes that Chaytor has got off very lightly. It is hoped that his fellow political fraudsters do rather less well. If they do not, public confidence in MPs and the political system that plagues Britain will be destroyed entirely – if that is not indeed already the case.