Peer and 3 former MPs facing criminal trial

A judge has ruled that three former Labour MPs and a Conservative peer may not avoid trial for expenses fraud, rejecting their claims to parliamentary privilege.

Parliamentary privilege is a 300-year-old immunity from legal proceedings arising from actions within Parliament; however the judge ruled that individual expense claims are “not covered by parliamentary privilege and… triable in Crown Court”.

From the BBC:

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

There was no bar to a trial, he said.

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 – Justice Saunders said there was no “logical, practical or moral justification” for them using parliamentary privilege to prevent prosecution, 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.

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7 Comments

  • Grammar Police 11th Jun '10 - 2:53pm
  • Antony Hook 11th Jun '10 - 3:43pm

    The first few paragraphs of the judgment rightly ask for politicians and journalists to behave better in commenting on this case. There were some, frankly, disgraceful comments said from the platform of our party conference last March.

    Such as “how dare they try to rely on parliamentary privilege.”

    You might as well say how dare they live in a country that has the rule of law, how dare they or the judge make sure the constitution is properly considered before the trial proceeds.

    Any accused has a right to ask the court to hear and consider the arguments he wishes to raise. To subject any accused who raises arguments we don’t like to abuse furthers neither justice or liberty.

  • Grammar Police 11th Jun '10 - 4:45pm

    As Saunders J says, if they hadn’t “raised” privilege, he would have had to of his own accord, as it is Parliament’s privilege that is potentially interferred with.

  • Grammar Police 11th Jun '10 - 4:46pm

    The privilege issue will be appealed to the Court of Appeal.

  • Miss E. J. Frogster 13th Jun '10 - 8:51am

    300 years old eh? I feel 800 years old… exercising my ancient legal rights, See my song ‘Gordon Brown be my Angel’
    Labour Politicians only half-helped me in dragging my case to a legal charity who tells me I take too long so I’m going to have to represent myself in one case in 125 years.

    How I like Parliament to be compatible with criminal legal proceedings. !!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCEWhEuhRoo (lyrics annotated)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znUtocdwnYw (BETTER SOUND QUALITY)

    Brahms Lullaby

    Gordon Brown! Gordon Brown!
    Will you be my angel?
    Guardian angel is what I meant
    Will you rescue my soul?

    For you are in charge
    Of these people I wrote to
    Stephen Timms, Jack Straw
    Let me place my trust in you

    Gordon Brown! MP’s!
    Let me sing out loud
    For what you do, for my country
    For my reproductive system

    You right wrongs! My right’s been wronged
    I am desperate for you
    Not just you! There’s Jon Herring
    I’m a violated woman

    Gordon Brown, help me sleep!
    Help me sleep like a baby
    Will my babies ever come out?
    Maternal desires!
    I lost my womanhood
    In a sinister curse
    Gordon Brown! Bring it back!
    You are perfect for that!

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