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Ex-Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson hits back at court fraud claims

Wednesday 28th September 2016

FORMER Kent Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson has angrily denied she was complicit in a fraud committed by one of her officials.

Christine Hewitt, 55, admitted in court she inflated a £950 dinner to £3,000 but claimed Mrs Atkinson knew of the scam.

But the Euro-MP – who now sits as an independent – said that Hewitt’s assertions were “simply not true”.

Her former aide, of Kings Hill, received a four-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to complete 40 hours of community work at Canterbury Crown Court.

But in a statement issued after Hewitt’s conviction, Mrs Atkinson said: "Earlier this month, my former assistant Christine Hewitt pleaded guilty in court to fraud.

“The case involved Christine’s acquiring from The Hoy pub (in Thanet) a falsely inflated invoice supposedly to cover the cost of a sponsored event.

Ms Atkinson continued: "Regrettably Christine’s barrister 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.

"It gives me no pleasure to rake over these issues again and I understand this is a painful and difficult time for Christine.

“However, what they said about me was simply not true."

The event at The Hoy was meant to encourage more women into politics.

But the court was told how the pub manager David Goulding met Hewitt and became increasingly uneasy as she suggested the invoice price should be increased and a premium cost be added to a buffet lunch.

The inflated bill would then be claimed back from the pan-European Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, and its foundation The Initiative for Direct Democracy in Europe.

Mrs Atkinson insisted she did not tell Hewitt to obtain an inflated invoice from the pub in early February 2015 and was unaware the defendant had done so.

The MEP was expelled from Ukip when the scandal erupted in a national tabloid newspaper sting operation.

The judge was told that Hewitt was having family problems at the time of the offence.

Mrs Atkinson’s statement added: "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."