Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Legal aid for expenses accused MPs

Labour MP Elliot Morley has been granted legal aid over expenses claims
Labour MP Jim Devine has been granted legal aid over expenses claims
Labour MP David Chaytor has been granted legal aid over expenses claims

Three politicians accused of fiddling their expenses have won a bid to get the public to pick up their legal bill.

Court officials confirmed that the trio of Labour MPs will receive taxpayer-funded legal aid.

David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine are due to go on trial later this year accused of theft by false accounting.

They are accused of stealing almost £60,000 in allowances through false mortgage applications, rent claims and invoices for services.

The cost of preparing their defence and of their legal representatives is likely to run into six figures, depending on the length of the trial.

But it could spiral far higher as the men threaten to take their battle to have the case against them thrown out to the Supreme Court.

Lord Hanningfield, who is accused of making false claims for travel allowances, has not made an application for legal aid, the court official added.

The three MPs have brought together some of the country's most eminent barristers, who can charge hundreds of pounds an hour, to fight their cases.

They have already told judges they should be dealt with by Parliamentary authorities instead of the courts.

Barrister Julian Knowles QC said the defendants will claim to be protected by parliamentary privilege, covered in the 1689 Bill of Rights.

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