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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
MEP is jailed for benefit fraud
Ashley Mote
Mote was elected as an MEP in 2004 as a member of UKIP
An MEP for South East England has been jailed for nine months for falsely claiming benefits of more than 65,000.

Former UKIP MEP Ashley Mote, 71, was sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court after being found guilty of 21 offences following a four-week trial.

Mote will retain his seat in Europe because he would only have been disqualified if he had received a term of imprisonment of more than 12 months.

The father-of-two sat as an independent MEP after being thrown out of UKIP.

If this man had a shred of decency or integrity left, he'd resign
Nigel Farage
UKIP leader

During sentencing, Judge Richard Price told Mote: "To say that this case has ruined you is an understatement, it is a tragedy.

"You have worked amazingly hard as an MEP. Nevertheless, the charges of which you have been convicted can only be met by a custodial sentence, nothing else would be appropriate."

The court heard Mote had run a successful business which collapsed in 1992.

He had begun claiming income support and benefits but failed to notify the benefits agency when he began earning money again in 1996.

The offences, totalling 65,506, occurred between February 1996 and September 2002 while Mote was living in Langley, West Sussex.

The court found him guilty of eight charges of false accounting, eight of obtaining a money transfer by deception, four of evading liability and one of failing to notify a change of circumstances.

'Disgusted and horrified'

He was acquitted of a further four charges in the case brought by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mote was elected as an MEP in 2004 as a member of UKIP, which threw him out of the party just days later when the party discovered the charges against him.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was "disgusted and horrified" at the "leniency" of the sentence.

Mr Farage said in a statement: "If he had been jailed for more than a year, the seat could have been reassigned to UKIP.

"As it is, the voters in the South East will see taxpayers' money going to a man serving a prison sentence, unable to represent them.

"I know it's far too much to expect, but if this man had a shred of decency or integrity left, he'd resign."

British MEP joins far-right bloc
11 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
UKIP suspends fraud trial Euro MP
16 Jul 04 |  UK Politics

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