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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 16:49 GMT
MP's son admits theft charge
Malcolm Bell
The court heard Bell was motivated by 'financial reasons'
The teenage son of a prominent Labour MP has been warned he could go to prison after he admitted stealing more than 2,000 from another politician.

Malcolm Bell, son of Middlesbrough MP Stuart Bell, stole blank cheques from the office of George Galloway MP while working for his father as a House of Commons researcher.

The actions of Bell, 19, were a desperate attempt to escape from "a life which wasn't quite of his choosing", a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court was told.

Bell admitted stealing four cheques from Mr Galloway's office in Portcullis House, near the Houses of Parliament, on 31 August 2001.

It's quite clear [his family]... are all deeply fond of him and were very shocked by what he has done

District judge Penelope Hewitt

He also admitted obtaining property by deception, obtaining a money transfer by deception and attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception.

The court heard how Bell, from Richmond, Surrey, wrote out one cheque for 1,788 and used it to buy an Egyptian figurine over the internet, posing in email correspondence as a Doctor Mustafa.

He made out another one to himself for 350, which was transferred to his current account and another for 500, which the bank refused to cash.

Mark Haslam, defending, said Bell had been motivated by "financial reasons" but had also felt under a great deal of pressure.

"He has been subject to a series of events which weren't of his making or choosing," he told the court.

District judge Penelope Hewitt said "glowing" character references from family and friends showed that he had acted out of desperation.

Stuart Bell
Stuart Bell did not attend court with his son

She said: "The way he has behaved is as though he was trying to escape from his life which wasn't quite of his choosing.

"He saw this as a way out, albeit a foolish way out because it was almost inevitable without any shadow of a doubt that he would be caught.

"It's quite clear from all the people who have written that they are all deeply fond of him and were very shocked by what he has done."

Mrs Hewitt said the matter had clearly caused the Bell family "enormous distress".

She told Bell a community based penalty would be the likely sentencing but she would not rule out a custodial sentence.

Elaine Sims, prosecuting, told the court that Bell went to work as usual on 31 August last year at Portcullis House, an outbuilding of the Houses of Parliament.

He went into a neighbouring office of Geraldine Clerck, secretary to George Galloway, the Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin where he stole the cheques.

Portcullis House
Malcolm Bell worked as a researcher at Portcullis House

On the same day Bell signed one of the cheques and made it payable to himself for 350.

He paid it in to a branch of HSBC bank and it was transferred to his current account a few days later, the court heard.

Also on that day he contacted a company called Atticart Ltd over the internet using the name of Dr Mustafa and inquiring about a bronze Osiris figurine.

On 8 October he made out another cheque payable to himself for 500 and attempted to pay it in at a bank, but the bank returned it unpaid.

He made a mistake in completing the fourth cheque and threw it away.

Police went to his office on 7 November , seizing equipment there, and when they searched his home address found the Egyptian figurine on his mantelpiece.

He initially gave a no comment interview to police but on 9 November made a full admission.

Bell was given unconditional bail and the case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports to 14 February.

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13 Dec 01 | England
MP's son accused of theft
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