Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mr Justice Saunders dismisses legal argument that Bill of Rights 1689 covers ex Labour MPs from standing trial over expenses claims

Dear All

Bad news rolls into town for the Labour Party.

Ex Labour MP Jim Devine and his two former Westminster colleagues and a Conservative peer have had their legal argument thrown out of claiming parliamentary privilege.

They will now stand trial accused of fiddling their expenses.

Legal argument was presented that as politicians they were protected by 300-year-old parliamentary privilege and so could be dealt with by the UK Parliament alone.

They thought they had discovered a loophole in the 1689 Bill of Rights to escape justice.

Mr Justice Saunders flatly rejected their argument, saying;

“I can see no logical, practical or moral justification for a claim for expenses being covered by privilege and I can see no legal justification for it either.”

If we assume that the Bill of Rights of 1689 was written in good faith, we have no option but to accept that those drafting the bill didn’t legalise criminality among MPs.

So, Devine and Co were onto plums, nice try but really who is kidding who!

Mr Justice Saunders went on to opine that his ruling cleared the way for “what most people accused of criminal behaviour would wish for: a fair, trial before an impartial jury”.

Of the four currently accused, Jim Devine in my opinion has the best chance of getting off with it.

So, I expect his defence having fallen at the first hurdle will now rely on ambiguity.

Some of the others will have to put faith in God; particularly Morley who I suspect will drag the staff of the Fees Office into this.

Morley, of Winterton, is charged with falsely claiming £30,428 in interest payments between 2004 and 2007 towards a mortgage on a home he had paid off.

If found guilty; Morley and Co face up to seven years in jail.

They also have another option, plead guilty and get a reduction in sentence but given the sums involved, some people are definitely facing the slammer.

So, it will be up to a jury of their peers to decide but given the extent of the expenses scandal and public outrage, finding an impartial jury maybe a tough task.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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