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Lord Hanningfield facing criminal court

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The former Essex CC leader Lord Hanningfield and three ex-Labour MPs will stand trial in a criminal court accused of fiddling their expenses, a judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Saunders told Southwark Crown Court that the criminal courts had the power to try the four men and they were not protected from prosecution by Parliamentary privilege,

Lord Hanningfield

Source: NICK STRUGNELL©

Tory peer Lord Hanningfield, also known as Paul White, 69, of West Hanningfield, near Chelmsford, Essex, faces six charges of making dishonest claims for travelling allowances.

Former 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.

Former Scunthorpe MP Morley, 57, of Winterton, North Lincolnshire, is charged with falsely claiming £30,428 in interest payments between 2004 and 2007 towards a mortgage on his home which he had already paid off.

Former Livingston MP Devine, 57, of Bathgate, West Lothian, is accused of wrongly submitting two invoices worth a total of £5,505 for services provided by Armstrong Printing Limited.

He also faces a second charge alleging that he dishonestly claimed cleaning and maintenance costs of £3,240 by submitting false invoices from Tom O’Donnell Hygiene and Cleaning Services.

All four defendants are on unconditional bail.

Mr Justice Saunders said: “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.

“In my judgment, the conduct alleged against these defendants is not covered by Parliamentary privilege and is triable in the Crown Court.

“Unless this decision is reversed on appeal, it clears the way for what most people accused of criminal behaviour would wish for: a fair trial before an impartial jury.”

He granted all four defendants, who were excused from attending the hour-long hearing, leave to appeal.

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