In the UK a very public expenses scandal was played out for the World to see. Many UK parliamentarians were discovered to have fiddled their parliamentary expenses to some degree or another. Most did not see it as theft but rather as using a loophole, one that allowed them to cheat the system.
Ultimately they learned the hard way that it was theft.
A few MPS were tried and convicted of expenses fraud. Some were sent to jail. Now three of the jailed MPs face further financial hardship.
Former UK MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Eric Illsley were tried and convicted of expense fraud. They are all served jail terms. A judge has now ordered that they payback prosecution and legal aid costs.
Legal Aid has been changed in the UK in recent times. It has meant that it is less readily available to those who need it the most. Even people on low incomes may find it hard to receive help with legal costs. This will often prevent people bringing small claims to court.
The judge at Southwark Crown Court has ordered the three former MP's to pay, between them, prosecution costs totalling £58,530 and to repay legal aid costs of £66,950. That's a lot of money. Six MPs in all were jailed but one, Jim Devine will not be expected to pay any costs back. This is because he is now a bankrupt.
All three men are now back in the community on licence. This means they served relatively short sentences actually in jail. In spite of today's ruling the taxpayer will pick up a big part of the costs. This is down to parliamentary privileges.
Opinion: Parliamentary privileges are just nonsense in this case. Surely all men forfeited such priviliges when they cheated the taxpayer out of huge sums of money.
The fact of the matter is though that many politicians have wangled their expenses in the past. To single out a minority is also nonsense. All should face justice, or none should. If the loopholes have now been removed this will at least mean that in the future it will be illegal, full stop, to fiddle MP expenses. Then they should have the book thrown at them if they choose to cheat.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog