Ashley Mote, MEP for the South East of England, has been sentenced to nine months' imprisonment after being found guilty of dishonestly obtaining more than £65,000 (€96,200) in housing benefit, council tax relief and income support (see story of 17 August).
However, Mr Mote will not lose his seat as an MEP; he would be disqualified only if he had received a term of imprisonment of more than 12 months.
Mote, 71, a member of the far-right Independence, Tradition and Soverignty (ITS) group in the European Parliament, was found guilty on 21 counts and not guilty on four. It is not yet clear if the ITS leadership will expel Mote from the group, or indeed if he will resign as an MEP outright.
Mote was elected as an MEP in June 2004, representing the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP); however, he was expelled from the party in July of that year, when the charges against him were made, and has since sat as an independent.
Nigel Farage, leader of the UKIP Delegation in Brussels, expressed his anger at the leniency of the sentence: "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 (of England) will see taxpayers' money going to a man serving a prison sentence, unable to represent them".
4 September 2007