MPs and peer to fight expenses prosecution with 1689 law
Three Labour MPs and a Conservative peer told a judge today they will use a 320-year-old law to argue they should not be prosecuted over the expenses scandal.
MPs David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine, along with Lord Hanningfield, will insist their case should not be tried by a jury and instead dealt with by House of Commons authorities.
In an unprecedented hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, all four Parliamentarians said they would plead not guilty to fiddling claims for allowances.
The MPs asked to be excused from standing in the secure glass dock at the back of the court - but their request was refused.
District Judge Timothy Workman agreed the case was so serious it should be heard at a higher court and released the four defendants on unconditional bail to appear at Southwark Crown Court on March 30.
If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Barrister Julian Knowles, for the MPs, told the court they would argue they were protected by parliamentary privilege, covered in the 1689 Bill of Rights.
"My clients should not be understood as saying that they are above the law - that would be quite wrong," he said.
"Parliamentary privilege is part of the law - and it is for Parliament to apply the law in their cases."
He said the case was of "high constitutional importance" but added the criminal courts had "no jurisdiction" over them.
"Proceedings in Parliament cannot be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside Parliament," he said.
Addressing a court packed with journalists and members of the public, he stressed the men denied any wrong-doing.
"They unequivocally and steadfastly maintain their innocence," he said.
In a separate hearing immediately after the MPs', the court was told Hanningfield would also argue he was covered by Parliamentary privilege.
His lawyer Rupert Bowers said he would deny charges of wrongly claiming for "repayment of travelling and other expenses".
The three MPs and peer left court without commenting where they were mobbed by the media and a handful of protesters chanting "give us our money back", "pigs" and "oink, oink".
In a statement, Hanningfield said he was "devastated" at the proceedings.
His spokesman Mark Spragg said: "He is devastated to be in this position. He feels he has been singled out. He does not believe he has done anything dishonest."
Bury North MP Chaytor, 60, of Todmorden, Lancashire, is accused of falsely claiming rent on a London flat he owned, falsely filing invoices for IT work and renting a property from his mother, against regulations.
Scunthorpe MP Morley, 57, of Winterton, North Lincolnshire, allegedly falsely claimed £30,428 in interest payments between 2004 and 2007 towards a mortgage on his home he had already paid off.
Livingston MP Devine, 56, of Bathgate, West Lothian, is said to have wrongly submitted two invoices worth a total of £5,505 for services provided by Armstrong Printing Limited.
He also faces a second charge alleging he dishonestly claimed cleaning and maintenance costs of £3,240 by submitting false invoices from Tom O'Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning Services.
Hanningfield, also known as Paul White, 69, of West Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, Essex, faced six charges of making dishonest claims for travelling allowances.
Each charge claimed the former leader of Essex County Council "purported to show that you were entitled to be paid expenses when the conditions entitling you to payment of such expenses had not been fulfilled".
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
The ten coldest places on Earth
Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
David Cameron explains selfie with Obama and Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Mandela Memorial
Krokodil in Mexico? Teenager hospitalised after 'injecting drug into her genitals'
Australia incest case: Filthy and severely deformed children found in remote farming community after generations of inbreeding
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Package: Harrington Starr: Trading appli...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Developer (Win...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: Senior QA Engineer Tes...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...