Police Handover More Files On Westminster Expenses

(Guardian) – TWO MORE POLITICIANS may face criminal charges in the new year after Scotland Yard passed files of evidence to prosecutors.

Detectives from the Metropolitan police have been examining allegations that a “handful” of MPs and peers have committed criminal offences, including fraud and false accounting, over their expenses claims.

The Crown Prosecution Service is already examining files on four politicians and the cases of two more individuals were referred. Scotland Yard is continuing to investigate a small number of cases, a spokesman said.

The Met commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said last month that a team of detectives was looking at a number of politicians – in single rather than double figures.

Scotland Yard has not confirmed the names of those individuals whose files were passed to prosecutors. But six individuals have been named in media reports as possibly being the subject of police inquiries. These include the Labour MPs Elliot Morley and David Chaytor, who each claimed thousands of pounds for mortgages which had already been paid off. Jim Devine, a third Labour MP, has reportedly been under investigation for invoices he submitted for electrical work worth more than £2,000 from a company with an allegedly fake address and an invalid VAT number.

Other names linked to the inquiry include the Labour peers Lady Uddin, who is facing allegations over a £100,000 claim in allowances, and Lord Clarke of Hampstead, a former party chairman, who has admitted his “terrible error” in claiming up to £18,000 a year for overnight subsistence when he often stayed with friends in London or returned home to St Albans, Hertfordshire.

Lord Hanningfield, a Tory peer who is also leader of Essex county council, was reported to be under investigation over whether he was returning to his home while claiming overnight allowances totalling £100,000 over a seven-year period.

The files are being considered by the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who has to decide whether there is a realistic chance of securing a conviction and what charges he should bring.

The criminal offences which are likely to be being examined are fraud and false accounting. The former has maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and the latter seven years.

False accounting is covered by the 1968 Theft Act and carries a sentence of up to seven years. It states that a representation is false if the person making it “knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading”.

The 2006 Fraud Act states that a person is guilty if he “dishonestly makes a false representation”.

The Met said a small number of cases remained under investigation by detectives. “The Metropolitan police service has delivered two further files of evidence relating to parliamentary expenses to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“These files relate to two people and will now be subject to CPS consideration on whether there should be any charges.

“The CPS is now considering files relating to a total of six people from both houses. A small number of cases remain under investigation.”

The CPS said: “The CPS received two additional files of evidence from the Metropolitan police in relation to parliamentary expenses. Any decisions on whether or not there should be any charges in relation to these files and those already received will be made as quickly as is reasonably practical. It would be inappropriate to comment any further at this stage.”

The alleged abuses of the expenses system by MPs, such as claiming for “phantom” mortgages and creating fake receipts, are obvious cases for investigation as potential breaches of these laws, according to criminal lawyers.

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5 Responses

  1. I so hope that Spink is one of those still under investigation. If he isn’t, there has to be something wrong.

    All the evidence is contained in your leader piece and anyone can see it is a slam dunk

    • I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Cynical. While I agree that the case is open and shut, the fact is that Spink, despite what he would have us believe, has a very low media profile. Also, come the crunch, Spink is the type of person to deny all personal wrong doing and blame his ‘incompetent’ staff for errors he was ‘too busy to spot’. He is very unlikely to simply own up and save the taxpayer the cost of an expensive court case.

      The CPS would be put in an uneviable position regarding Spink. On the one hand he would have angry constituents baying for the MP’s blood; but on the other would be faced with the necessity of spending more than his apparent fraud has cost the taxpayer on a successful prosecution. It all really hinges on his mortgage interest claims, which Legg was questioning him about. If the authorities find a large discrepancy there, it may well tip the balance in favour of a prosecution; but I won’t hold my breath.

      The other thing to remember is that, before the police can investigate, a formal complaint needs to have been made. I have not personally made one (because of the reasons I outline above) so, for the police to have become involved, one or more of this Blog’s readers would need to make one, based upon the evidence I provide.

      Personally, I take the view that the taxpayer is better-off just making sure he is not re-elected next year. I do not believe he warrants any additional money spending on him…

      • Then maybe constituents should take matters into our own hands, find a barrister prepared to act on a no-win-no-fee basis and launch a private prosecution. That way it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything.

        It gauls me to think that he is likely to get away with it.

        • I really don’t believe it is down to constituents to do that, Cynical.

          The reason that Spink is still in office is because the Conservative Party permitted him to remain. Your suggestion is something that the local Conservative party, in my opinion, should have undertaken on constituents’ behalf. (But you can understand their reluctance when their target has already sued them succesfully using taxpayers’ money – and would continue to use those resources defending his position.)

          There is no easy answer here, Cynical. I think it is better to just mark the whole incident down to experience and look forward to a new parliament in which the Spinks of this world are excluded.

          That is gauling, I agree. But, from a taxpayer viewpoint, I believe it to be the best option.

          Merry Christmas, Cynical – and thank you for your continued input…

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