Political prisoners: The MPs who have served jail time

Posted On: 
29th January 2019

Fiona Onasanya is not the first MP to find herself on the wrong side of the law while serving the public. Here is PoliticsHome's rundown of MPs who have spent time behind bars in recent years.

A whole raft of honourable members have found themselves caged in recent years.
Credit: 
Anastasia Zawierucha/PoliticsHome

Eric Illsley

The former Barnsley Central MP had the dishonour of being the first MP to be convicted over the expenses scandal after he was handed a 12-month sentence for making false claims

In mid-2009 Mr Illsley was exposed by the Daily Telegraph for making so-called “phantom” claims for council tax on his expenses. Over a four-year period he claimed more than £10,000 from the taxpayer, despite the total bill for the property amounting to only £3,966.

He also made regular submissions for £200 expense claims which were just below the limit where he would have been required to file receipts.

He was imprisoned for three months before being released on an electronic tag, and going on to appear on BBC Newsnight just months after his release claiming his excess claims were "an allowance for living in London".


Elliot Morley

Former environment minister Elliot Morley was banged up in May 2011 after he pleaded guilty to £32,000 of expenses fraud.

From 2004 to 2006, the Scunthorpe Labour MP made 19 claims for excessive mortgage payments while also filling out a further 21 second home allowance forms for another mortgage which he had already paid off.

He was sentenced to 16 months, but was released less than five months later.


Chris Huhne

Perverting the course of justice over speeding tickets is a cross-party crime. Disgraced former Lib Dem Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his now ex-wife Vicky Pryce were both sentenced to eight months inside after they engaged in a scheme to transfer speeding points away from Mr Huhne.

The plan only came to light when Vicky Pryce approached a Sunday Times journalist in the wake of her husband’s affair with accusations that he had coerced people into taking his speeding points.

When the story came to light, the Crown Prosecution Service laid charges against both of them for the crime. Mr Huhne eventually pled guilty and stepped down as an MP. Ms Pryce put forward a defence of marital coercion but was found guilty by a jury.

The pair each served two months of their sentences before being released. Mr Huhne was electronically tagged and subject to a curfew.


Jim Devine

Ex-Livingstone MP Jim Devine was jailed after being found guilty of claiming £8,385 of parliamentary expenses for work on his home by a company which never existed.

The judge in the case slammed him for false accounting with the “entirely bogus” receipts.

The former chair of Scottish Labour served four months of his 16-month sentence before being released and electronically tagged.


David Chaytor

Another expenses offender, David Chaytor was handed the longest sentence of any of the MPs caught up in the scandal – 18 months.

Mr Chaytor – like the other less-than-honourable members– was taken to court for false accounting charges. The case against him revolved around £18,000 worth of expenses which he was found to have falsely claimed from the taxpayer.

One of the most serious charges against Mr Chaytor was for making rental payments towards a property which he owned. He was accused of using fake tenancy agreements to hoodwink the expenses office.

His attempt to appeal the sentence failed, but he was released under home supervision conditions just five months later.


Denis MacShane

The Rotherham Labour ex-MP was suspended from the party multiple times as continued revelations about his expenses were exposed over an 18-month period. He was first referred to the police after it came to light that he had made £125,000-worth of expenses claims for his constituency office - which was his garage.

Writing before the charges were laid, Mr MacShane attempted to play down the seriousness of the scandal, telling the Guardian: “There will come a moment when moats and manure, bath plugs and tampons will be seen as a wonderful moment of British fiddling, but more on a Dad’s Army scale than the real corruption of politics.”

He was eventually charged with false accounting for the creation of £12,900 of bogus receipts and was banged up for six months.


Fiona Onasanya

The member for Peterborough was booted out of the Labour party earlier this month after she was found to have lied about a speeding charge in order to avoid a police ticket.

The MP and former solicitor was convicted at a retrial of colluding with her brother, Festus, after her Nissan Micra was caught going at 41mph in a 30mph zone near Peterborough in July 2017.

She was sentenced to an immediate three-month jail term, while her brother received a 10 month custodial sentence.

She is the first sitting MP to be jailed in 28 years.