Former MEP Jailed For Expenses Fraud

29 April 2016, 12:44 | Updated: 29 April 2016, 12:49

A former South East Member of European Parliament has been sentenced to four years in prison after he used public money to pay for his divorce settlement.

Peter Skinner, 56, was jailed at Southwark Crown Court for mis-spending more than £100,000 of public money, false accounting and falsifying documents. He paid his ex-wife Julie money as an assistant, despite her not working for him, in order not have to give her any of his own money after their divorce proceedings. 
Skinner tried to justify his expenses to the European Parliament and blamed a complex system for his crimes, claiming he did not understand the rules. 
Mr Skinner was an MEP from 1999 to 2014. His defence claimed he had always given exemplary service and that his marriage breakdown, pressure from his new relationship, the ill health of his mother and anxiety caused him to make judgements that were out of character. 

The Honourable Mrs Justice Maura McGowan acknowledged his previous good character but said:  "it was lost in the most fundamental sense, you were trusted by the public and now you have lost their trust” 
“The public expect and are entitled to expect that you do your job diligently and with honesty”
She added: “Behaviour of this kind loses public trust in you as an individual and political institutions, causing substantial damage which could take some time to recover from."
In October the court will determine if Skinner has to repay money to the European Parliament. 
Kent Police Statement:

A former Member of the European Parliament has been jailed for four years for expenses fraud.

Peter Skinner, 56, of Recreation Avenue, Snodland, wrongfully claimed thousands of pounds that should have been used to cover staff costs.

He was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 29 April having previously been found guilty of one count of fraud, one count of false accounting and one count of making a false instrument.

The court heard how officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate launched an investigation into Skinner’s activities in December 2010 when they became aware of a potentially fraudulent document relating to consultancy work Skinner claimed had been provided by his father.

It was later established that the document, which authorised payments of £5,000 to his father’s business every three months, contained false signatures.

Through further audits of Skinner’s personal and office accounts, the investigators also found numerous examples of Skinner spending money intended for staff on himself and others.

Examples including him buying a Land Rover Discovery for his ex-wife and paying monthly maintenance payments as part of his divorce settlement, as well as for his honeymoon to the United States and Hawaii following his second marriage.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Adrian Brown said: ‘Peter Skinner served as an MEP for 20 years and has badly let down those who supported and trusted him throughout his time in office.

‘He abused his position, diverting significant sums of public money from legitimate parliamentary use to enhance his own lifestyle.’