Tory peer faces jail over expenses scandal

 

Once feted in Westminster as the first black Conservative peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick was last night facing a substantial jail sentence after being found guilty of abusing his expenses.

The 58-year-old former practising barrister became the first parliamentarian to be tried and found guilty by a jury after the expenses scandal. However he is set to remain a member of the Upper House despite his conviction.

Although successive ministers have proposed reforms so errant peers could be expelled, there is currently no such mechanism available. The House of Lords website states that a peerage "can only be removed by an Act of Parliament".

The jury found that Lord Taylor had falsely told the House of Lords members' expenses office that his main residence was in Oxford, when he lived in west London.

Throughout the trial, Lord Taylor maintained he was following the advice given to him by fellow peers, that nominating a main residence outside of the capital was a way to earn money "in lieu of salary".

But the jury of seven men and five women sitting at Southwark Crown Court agreed with the case against Lord Taylor, that he misled the Members' Expenses Section in the House of Lords to swindle more than £11,000.

The property in Oxford was where his half-nephew Robert Taylor lived with his partner Tristram Wyatt, who owned the house. Lord Taylor never stayed there and had no legal or financial interest in it.

Mr Taylor told the court from the witness box that he doubted the motives of his relative when he found out he had used his address.

He said: "I was shocked. I was quite angry, actually, because I had always wondered why he had been quite so friendly, because we didn't on the face of it have a lot in common."

Lord Taylor stood impassively in the dock at Southwark Crown Court as the guilty verdict on all six counts was delivered.

He was granted unconditional bail and sentencing will take place at a later date.

Stephen O'Doherty, a reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service special crime division, said: "No one could sincerely believe that a home in which they had no financial interest, had never lived in and had scarcely visited could count as their main residence, or that it was permissible to claim for driving between Oxford and Parliament when they had not done so.

"Yet Lord Taylor claimed exactly that and landed the taxpayer with a bill of more than £11,000.

"Today, a jury has seen through his dishonesty by finding him guilty of theft by false accounting. He will now face the consequences of his actions."

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