Still sporting a beard, the former head of Essex County Council sat in the glorious Chelmsford sunshine and said he is hopeful he can ditch the title of "disgraced peer" following his conviction for fiddling his parliamentary expenses.Really? Just how do you plan to do that, then, and does it involve operation of a specially-fitted DeLorean?
"I hope people do not judge me by one mistake, but my previous record," said Lord Hanningfield, jailed for nine months after being found guilty at the end of a ten-day trial in May for fraudulently claiming nearly £14,000.It’s just so unfair, isn’t it?
"I don't want to be called 'disgraced' any more. I just want to get back to having a normal life. Even Jeffrey Archer is not 'disgraced' any longer."Really? Oddly enough, it does get mentioned in articles and is forever enshrined in Wikipedia. Just like it will be with you.
"I think people who know me know I made a mistake and know I'm not a master criminal. Anyone would have thought I committed two murders with the amount of publicity I got."You didn’t ‘make a mistake’, you claimed for hotel stays in London that you didn’t make! That’s deliberate fraud!
He will either get involved in international development or, more likely, penal reform, a topic close to his heart after spending nine weeks at a minimum security prison in Kent.*bites lip*
He is adamant he can make a difference to the lives of young inmates and still keeps in contact with his old cellmate, Dell, a petty crook caught with a boot full of cannabis in Maidstone, and plans to meet up with him in the near future.
"Some people in prison would be better served in their communities – it won't cost so much money and would help them with their rehabilitation. There are so many people in their 20s who need a lot of help with the rest of their lives," he said.You know who really deserves ‘a lot of help’? It’s the people who aren’t criminals…
Fortunately for him the expenses system at the House of Lords has changed.You didn’t ‘mess it up’! You committed fraud!
"You can't mess it up," he grinned. "It's completely idiot-proof."