Jim Devine defends right to claim legal aid

FORMER Labour MP Jim Devine has defended his decision to claim legal aid to fight criminal charges over his expenses claims – because he is out of work.

The 57-year-old, who was barred by Labour from standing for re-election as Livingston MP because of his expenses claims, said he was entitled to help from the state in his upcoming criminal trial because he is now unemployed. All Members of Parliament ceased to be MPs on Monday, when Parliament was formally dissolved ahead of the General Election on 6 May.

There was an outcry after court officials announced on Monday that Mr Devine and two fellow Labour MPs, Elliot Morley and David Chaytor, also charged over their expenses, had been granted legal aid to fund their defence.

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But Mr Devine said: "I have a legal bill for just over 14,000 sitting in my living room at the moment. As of Monday I have been unemployed and after being means-tested I am entitled to legal aid. I have also already paid 4,000 so far, meaning my legal costs are close to 20,000 so nothing is free for me."

MPs normally receive a "resettlement grant" of up to 100 per cent of their 64,766 salary when they leave the Commons in place of a redundancy payment – the exact amount is determined by their age and length of service.

However, the grants for Mr Devine, Mr Morley and Mr Chaytor have been frozen pending the outcome of their trial.