Jailed Lord Hanningfield arrested over council expenses

Lord Hanningfield arriving at Maidstone Crown Court for sentencing
Image caption Lord Hanningfield was made a life peer in 1998

Former peer Lord Hanningfield, who was jailed for expenses fraud, has been arrested over money he claimed from a county council, the BBC understands.

The Conservative was released last week after being jailed for nine months for falsely claiming £14,000 while in the House of Lords.

He has been arrested by police investigating expenses claims he made while leader of Essex County Council, BBC correspondent Sally Chidzoy said.

He has been released on police bail.

A spokesman for Essex Police said a "70-year-old man from the Chelmsford area" had been arrested on suspicion of fraud.

'Flight to India'

He has been released on police bail until 18 January pending further inquiries.

Commenting on the arrest of his client, Lord Hanningfield's solicitor Mark Spragg said: "This is hitting a man when he is down... it's a complete travesty.

"The prosecution said at his trial that there was nothing wrong with his council expenses.

"He was taken to Braintree police station for questioning. Why did the police not interview my client when he was in prison? Why did they wait until he came out? It's shocking."

Lord Hanningfield was released from prison after serving only one quarter of his sentence.

The former pig farmer, from West Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, had claimed for Parliamentary expenses for overnight stays in London when he was not in the capital.

On one occasion he had claimed for expenses when he was actually on board a flight to India.

Giving evidence, he claimed that most other peers treated the House of Lords as a "club", turning up there for only 10 minutes to claim their daily allowance.

The peer suffers from ill-health and has been diagnosed with clinical depression, his trial heard.

At his trial, Mr Justice Saunders said Lord Hanningfield had broken the public's trust in peers and would now be partly remembered as a "benefits cheat".

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