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Statement from Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, on parliamentary expenses charging decisions

05/02/2010

"Following widespread concerns about the expenses claimed by some MPs and some members of the House of Lords, a number of complaints were made to the Metropolitan Police alleging criminal conduct. In light of these complaints on 15 May 2009, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, and I agreed to set up a panel of senior police officers and senior prosecuting lawyers to assess the complaints and consider whether there should be a criminal investigation into any of them.

"A careful and detailed police investigation followed in a small number of cases and by December 2009, the police had passed the files in six cases to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to determine whether or not any charges should be brought.

"These files have been reviewed very carefully by senior prosecuting lawyers in the CPS, assisted where necessary by an external and highly experienced criminal QC. In four cases, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges and that it is in the public interest to charge the individuals concerned. Accordingly, summonses in these cases have been obtained from the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court and will now be served on the individuals in question.

"The four cases in which charges have been brought are as follows:

  1. "In the first case, two charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting have been brought against Elliot Morley MP. The first charge alleges that between April 2004 and February 2006, Mr Morley dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £14,428, in excess of that to which he was entitled, in relation to a property in Winterton, Lincolnshire. The second charge alleges that between March 2006 and November 2007 Mr Morley dishonestly claimed mortgage expenses of £16,000 for the same property when there was no longer a mortgage on that property.
  2. "In the second case, three charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting have been brought against David Chaytor MP. The first charge alleges that in May 2006 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £1,950 for IT services by using false invoices. The second charge alleges that between September 2005 and September 2006 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £12,925, purportedly for renting a property in Regency Street, London, when he was in fact the owner of the property. The third charge alleges that between September 2007 and January 2008 Mr Chaytor dishonestly claimed £5,425, purportedly for renting a property in Bury, Lancashire, from his mother.
  3. "In the third case, two charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting have been brought against Jim Devine MP. The first charge alleges that between July 2008 and April 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices. The second charge alleges that in March 2009, Mr Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery using false invoices.
  4. "In the fourth case, six charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting have been brought against Paul White, known as Lord Hanningfield. The charges allege that between March 2006 and May 2009, Paul White dishonestly submitted claims for expenses to which he knew he was not entitled, including numerous claims for overnight expenses for staying in London when records show that he was driven home and did not stay overnight in London.

"In the fifth case, after careful scrutiny of all the evidence gathered in the investigation, we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of a conviction. In view of the considerable public interest in the cases currently under consideration, I have decided to identify Lord Clarke of Hampstead as the individual in question in this case. Since criminal proceedings are now active in respect of the four individuals charged, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on Lord Clarke's case at this stage.

"The sixth case is still under consideration and the criminal investigation is ongoing.

"Lawyers representing those who have been charged have raised with us the question of Parliamentary privilege. We have considered that question and concluded that the applicability and extent of any Parliamentary privilege claimed should be tested in court.

"Can I remind all concerned that the four individuals now stand charged of criminal offences and they each have the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice any of these trials."

Keir Starmer QC
5 February 2010

Ends

  1. Media enquiries by phone: 020 7796 8127 or 020 7796 8102. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  2. The defendants have been summonsed to appear at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court at 2pm on 11 March 2010.
  3. The maximum sentence under Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 for false accounting is seven years in the Crown Court.
  4. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  5. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are five specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism, Fraud Prosecution, and Revenue and Customs. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  6. The DPP has published his long term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard" at www.cps.gov.uk/pps
  7. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol