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Ex Labour Mps And Tory Peer Lose Expenses Ruling


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Three ex Labour MPs and an ex Tory peer are set to stand trial over expenses fraud allegations after a judge ruled they could not claim parliamentary privilege to stop prosecution.

Mr Justice Saunders rejected arguments by Elliott Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield that only Parliament could hear their case.

He said there was no bar to a trial.

The four, who all deny charges of false accounting over their expenses, are to appeal against the decision.

If found guilty of charges brought under the Theft Act, they face a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.

In his ruling - delivered at Southwark Crown Court - Mr Justice Saunders said there was no "logical, practical or moral justification" for them using parliamentary privilege to prevent a trial going ahead, adding that there was no legal basis either.

"Unless this decision is reversed on appeal, it clears the way for what most people accused of criminal behaviour would wish for: a fair trial before an impartial jury," he stated.

However, he stressed it was right for the question of parliamentary privilege to be considered and had it not been he would have raised it himself.

Shortly after they were charged in February, it emerged that lawyers for the men were exploring whether to challenge the prosecution on the grounds it might be unlawful.

Their case revolved around the concept of parliamentary privilege - an ancient right protecting MPs from legal action arising from proceedings in Parliament - and seen principally as protecting freedom of speech.

The lawyers argued that privilege extended to expenses claims made by MPs - meaning that only Parliament could deal with alleged abuses and determine sanctions.

But in his ruling, Mr Justice Saunders said the "conduct alleged against these defendants is not covered by parliamentary privilege and is triable in Crown Court".

Although the judge concluded that the expenses system, in and of itself, was covered by privilege individual claims made by MPs were not.

Although the men had been given right to appeal against the verdict, Friday's decision made it more likely they will stand trial later this year.

The charges followed a nine-month police investigation triggered after details of all MPs' expenses claims were leaked to a national newspaper.

Elliott Morley, the former MP for Scunthorpe, David Chaytor, formerly MP for Bury North and ex-Livingston MP Jim Devine were barred from standing at the general election after the allegations surfaced.

Lord Hanningfield, formerly leader of Essex County Council, has been suspended by his party.

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tip of the iceberg

Any civil servant cannot be prosecuted for doing their job unless they have been caught stealing. Thats any.

Council staff are immune to prosecution in Scotland - and very few if any cases have been successful in Scotland to bring people to account -

a sample is the current inquiry into the deaths of about 12 OAPs in a care Home in Uddingston - the owners were blissfully unaware that they had to train staff in fire evacuation procedures; that fire doors are meant to be shut; that annual checks need to be done on fire eqpt; and that fire training for staff needs to be done.... then the social workers inspecting the Home are meant to check all aspects of care and safety in the care home but also failed.. but now they are employed by the government rather than the council so who's going to lose? All the souls that died cos its going to be a mssive cover-up.

MPs ? its just afew that have een sacrificed... wot about the plonker who took a job in the new governemnt Treasury Dept, having claimed for his boyfriends hoose? Bet his wife wisnae pleased. Course it wis only £40k. My income for more than 2 years.

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