Euro-MP’s Assistant Who Admitted Fraud Blamed Stress And Family Problems For “Foolish And Out of Character Actions”.
Janice Atkinson MEP Breaks Her Silence On Court Case That Saw Assistant Receive Suspended Jail Sentence
Independent MEP for South East England Janice Atkinson today breaks her silence over the conviction and sentencing of her former assistant Christine Hewitt for fraud. In a detailed statement she denies false claims by Hewitt’s legal team that she had any involvement in the crime – for which Hewitt was given a suspended jail sentence and community service.
It is the first time Janice has spoken out to defend herself against statements, made in open court by Hewitt’s barrister in an attempt to lessen her sentence, as she did not wish to prejudice legal proceedings. Hewitt had pleaded guilty to the offence.
Janice said: “Earlier this month my former assistant Christine Hewitt pleaded guilty in court to fraud. The case involved Christine’s deceitfully acquiring from The Hoy pub a falsely inflated invoice supposedly to cover the cost of a sponsored event.
“The event was not a UKIP event. It was a European Parliament grouping sponsored event to raise the issue of and encourage more women into politics, something that I have long been involved in.
“Regrettably, after pleading guilty to the offence, Christine’s barrister, presumably acting on her instructions, attempted to mitigate her punishment by blaming me as someone who was “aware of and instrumental in arranging” the fraud.
“This tactic of trying to shift on to me the blame for a crime which Christine had already admitted in court was made publicly and under full legal privilege.
“Christine must know her barrister’s statement was false. Because it was made to try and reduce her sentence, it was never challenged in court and was reported fully in the media.
“Had it been made outside a court, it would have been defamatory and I would have been entitled to take legal action had I chosen to do so.
“It gives me no pleasure to rake over these issues again and I understand this is a painful and difficult time for Christine as she begins a suspended jail sentence and community work.
“However, none of that excuses her and her legal team their attempts to place the blame for her crime on me. What they said about me was simply not true.
“I did not instruct Christine Hewitt to acquire a fraudulently inflated invoice to cover the sponsored event. Nor was I aware of her intending to do so, or of her doing so.
“Before pleading guilty Christine admitted candidly to me that, in committing these acts, she behaved irresponsibly, foolishly and out of character.
“She blamed her actions on stress caused by personal family issues. At the same time she admitted these issues had impaired her ability properly to do the job for which she was being paid.
“She also admitted that she did not organise the Hoy event efficiently or with proper attention to detail, saying her actions were “foolish” and “out of character”. She admitted that she was confused by fundraising and sponsorship.
“The original event was supposed to be a fundraising event but then the European grouping of which UKIP is a member, the IDDE, agreed to sponsor the event as it was raising the profile of women in politics, something that the Parliament promotes.
“Christine claims that she did not understand politics. She was employed to run the office and staff, not to be political. She had, however, in the past been involved in a number of UKIP fundraising events.
“Like her guilty plea in court, all this comprised a straightforward admission of her responsibility for the crime.
“Family problems are, of course, always a matter of regret. However Christine’s actions in trying to pin the blame on me for a crime to which she has confessed are wrong.
“It was painful enough for me that her actions led to my expulsion from UKIP and to my becoming the subject of a police investigation – an investigation which cleared me of any wrongdoing whatsoever.
“For these reasons, I cannot leave unchallenged these attempts by her and her legal team to seek to blacken my name in this way.”
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