Three former Labour MPs and a Conservative peer lost their appeals this morning, over last month’s ruling that they could not avoid trial for alleged expenses fraud by claiming Parliamentary privilege.
From the BBC:
Elliott Morley, David Chaytor, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield had argued at the Court of Appeal that only Parliament could hear their case.
The four all deny charges of false accounting over their expenses.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
The men had appealed against a ruling in June by Mr Justice Saunders sitting at Southwark Crown Court in central London.
The judge had rejected arguments that they were protected by parliamentary privilege and should be dealt with by Parliament alone.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said,
It can confidently be stated that parliamentary privilege or immunity from criminal prosecution has never, ever attached to ordinary criminal activities by Members of Parliament. It is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the performance of the core responsibilities of a MP might require or permit him or her to commit crime.
The stark reality is that the defendants are alleged to have taken advantage of the allowances scheme designed to enable them to perform their important public duties as MPs to commit crimes of dishonesty to which parliamentary immunity or privilege does not, has never, and, we believe, never would attach.
If the allegations are proved, and we emphasise, if they are proved, then those against whom they are proved will have committed ordinary crimes.
Even stretching language to its limits, we are unable to envisage how dishonest claims by MPs for their expenses or allowances begin to involve the legislative or core functions of the relevant House…In our judgment, no question of privilege arises, and the ordinary process of the criminal justice system should take its normal course.