POLITICS
23/04/2019 13:53 BST | Updated 24/04/2019 09:26 BST

Tory MP Christopher Davies Fined £1,500 For False Expense Claim

The 51-year-old "absolutely intended to deceive", court heard.

A Tory MP who fiddled his expenses to decorate his office has been fined £1,500 and been ordered to carry out 50 hours’ unpaid work.  

Christopher Davies, who wants to continue as MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, showed no emotion when he was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in central London.

The 51-year-old admitted two charges of forging invoices in order to obtain landscape photographs for his office when he appeared in court last month. 

He will now face a recall petition which would see him unseated if 10% of his constituents sign it.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Edis said: “It seems shocking that when confronted with a simple accounting problem, you thought to forge documents.

“That is an extraordinary thing for a man with your position and your background to do.”

The two charges related to the period when Davies was setting up his constituency office following the 2015 snap general election.

He had contacted a photographer in his constituency and bought nine images from him to decorate and display in his constituency office, using his own money to pay the £700 for them initially.

There were two budgets available to him, the Start Up Costs Budget - for office furniture and IT equipment - and the Office Costs Budget, both of which he could claim the full amount from.

But Philip Stott, prosecuting, revealed Davies found in February 2016 that only £476.02 was left in the Start Up Costs Budget, with £8,303.75 remaining in the other.

He then created two fake invoices, so the £700 cost could be split between the two budgets - £450 to the Start Up and £250 for the other.

The judge told Davies the conviction could end his political career under the recall process, which can result in MPs who are handed prison terms of less than a year being subject to a petition to oust them.

 

PA Wire/PA Images

 

Under parliamentary rules, Davies does not automatically lose his seat as an MP because his sentence was less than the 12-month minimum.

The judge said: “There was no error here. What you did was done quite deliberately and it must have taken some time to create your fake documents.

“MPs ask the public to place their trust in them and in an election that’s what happens.

“They become the guardians of the nation’s democracy and depend on the public holding them in high esteem.

“Any significant betrayal of that standard is serious and crosses the custody threshold.”

He added: “The recall process may end your political career - that’s part of the machinery.”

Defending, Thomas Forster QC said his client - a 51-year-old father of two school-age children - was in a “privileged position” as an MP, but that his offending was a mistake rather than a “return to the bad old days” of “maxing out expenses accounts”.

He said: “There is a very real likelihood that his political career is in tatters.

“This is a tragically disastrous set of circumstances to which I accept he is the author.

“It is not a financial cost, it is a harm to the integrity of Parliament.”

Forster added that his client underspent “across every single budget”.

Prosecuting, Stott said it was accepted that Davies had not sought to profit financially from the action and that he was entitled to claim for the pictures.

However, he said Davies was not entitled to split the costs across two budgets, and said any claims had to be accompanied by genuine invoices.

Davies served as a councillor in Powys before he was elected as MP for Brecon and Radnorshire at the 2015 general election, beating incumbent Liberal Democrat Roger Williams with the seat’s largest majority since 1983.

He served as parliamentary private secretary to the Wales Office from January to July 2018.

Before entering politics, he worked as a rural auctioneer, an estate agent and also managed a mixed veterinary practice in Hay-on-Wye.

Speaking after the sentencing, Davies said: “I have accepted today’s ruling and want to take this opportunity to make an unreserved apology.

“I would like to reiterate that I made a mistake and at no point did I at any time try to make any financial gain. This has taken a very hard toll on my family, on my staff and on myself.

“I would now like to move on and continue my role of serving the people of Brecon and Radnorshire as their MP.”

Speaking after the sentencing, Labour chairman Ian Lavery said: “Christopher Davies has shown he is not fit to sit in Parliament. The Prime Minister should finally do the right thing and get rid of him.”