Rive Gauche: Parliamentary Privilege and a trampolining masturbator

Well… after the decision today of a ‘strong’ Court of Appeal (LCJ, MR & P of QBD) it would appear that the MPs and a peer being prosecuted for expenses have run out of options to claim that Parliament should deal with them.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Lord Neuberger, Master of The Rolls and Sir Anthony May, President of The Queen’s Bench Division, rejected argument by David Chaytor, Elliot Morley, Jim Devine and Lord Hanningfield, that they are protected from prosecution by parliamentary privilege. It is open to the four, who deny theft by false accounting, to seek to take their cases to the Supreme Court. The essence of the appeal was a submission that any investigation into their expenses claims and the imposition of any sanctions “should lie within the hands of Parliament”.

The judgment is essential reading for those interested in Constitutional Law and ‘Parliamentary Privilege’.  I had rather a good lunch reading the judgment.  I thought a light Italian red would be a fine accompaniment.  It was. A fascinating judgment with many cases examined – a pleasure to read from a lawyer’s point of view – and, no doubt, for those who wish to see MPs prosecuted.

Guido Fawkes reported:

+ + + Lord Chief Justices Rules + + +
+ + + MPs To Be Treated As Common Criminals + + +

That would be a fair assessment in the light of the judgment.  I quote the Conclusion…

    Conclusion

  1. If we may respectfully say so, we are not in the least surprised that no attempt has been made by the Speaker or Lord Speaker to seek to intervene in these proceedings, nor even to draw the attention of the court to any potential difficulty in the context of parliamentary privilege, nor even to ask the court to reflect on the possibility that parliamentary privilege may be engaged.
  2. It can confidently be stated that parliamentary privilege or immunity from criminal prosecution has never ever attached to ordinary criminal activities by members of Parliament. With the necessary exception in relation to the exercise of freedom of speech, it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the performance of the core responsibilities of a member of Parliament might require or permit him or her to commit crime, or in which the commission of crime could form part of the proceedings in the House for the purposes of article 9 of the Bill of Rights. Equally we cannot discern from principle or authority that privilege or immunity in relation to such conduct may arise merely because the allegations are based on activities which have taken place “within the walls” of Parliament.
  3. The stark reality is that the defendants are alleged to have taken advantage of the allowances scheme designed to enable them to perform their important public duties as members of Parliament to commit crimes of dishonesty to which parliamentary immunity or privilege does not, has never, and, we believe, never would attach. If the allegations are proved, and we emphasise, if they are proved, then those against whom they are proved will have committed ordinary crimes. Even stretching language to its limits we are unable to envisage how dishonest claims by members of Parliament for their expenses or allowances begin to involve the legislative or core functions of the relevant House, or the proper performance of their important public duties. In our judgment no question of privilege arises, and the ordinary process of the criminal justice system should take its normal course, unaffected by any groundless anxiety that they might constitute an infringement of the principles of parliamentary privilege.
  4. The decision of Saunders J was correct. The appeals will be dismissed.

It being Friday and “Rive Gauche” Day for me…. I just have to share this remarkable story with you…

Naked trampoline man avoids jail sentence

A man caught jumping up and down naked on a trampoline has avoided a jail sentence.

James Burden, 55, was spotted by a neighbour in the garden of his Falkirk home at 0500 GMT on 25 March. Falkirk Sheriff Court heard Burden had his “manhood” in one hand and a cigarette in the other when the neighbour saw him.

Mike McMahon, prosecuting, said: “He told police he had gone out to the trampoline and had masturbated himself there.”

Asked why he did it, Burden told officers: “Just for the thrill of it.”

Well… there you are… life in Britain goes on and now the courts and parliament are in recess and the long vacation.  What will I be able to write about?  Have no fear… I shall, I am sure, as I holiday in Battersea Square, find something each day to explore.

5 thoughts on “Rive Gauche: Parliamentary Privilege and a trampolining masturbator

  1. I’ve no wish to see MPs prosecuted as such. I do have an interest in seeing people being treated equally under the law. The test for me in this case is whether similar conduct by a public servant would also attract prosecution. The rules for what is covered under parliamentary privilege should be confined to those activities which allow the elected representative to fulfill his/her public role properly but should not go so far as to allow abuse.

    I’d also add that employees of private sector companies should also be subject to such sanctions, although many companies are loathe to bring these sort of cases to law. However, unequal as it might seem, I think that where public money is involved then there is even more of a public interest. That doesn’t mean prosecuting every trivial item, but it does mean that substantial attempts at expenses fraud (remembering nothing has been proven yet) should rightfully come to court.

    There is, of course, a whiff of scapegoats being made around the whole MP’s expenses saga and the line between what is bending the system to one’s advantage against that of a fraudulent claim is sometimes a grey one. However, that’s what, ultimately, the courts are there for. The “bending” issue is one for public accountability, the “significant fraud” one is for the justice system.

  2. It was always risible to suggest that expenses claims were within the “legislative or core functions” of the House. Nevertheless, these men must have been advised that this was worth arguing. Makes one wonder?

  3. I agree with Steve Jones re the element of “scapegoating”. We could all name quite a few others who perhaps ought to be in the dock alongside the “Parliamentary Four” as the case may yet become known.

  4. ObiterJ – heard that CPS is looking at more files…. takes time to put evidence together?

    Scapegoating is not attractive….. they should pursue all ‘appropriate cases’ and… to be fair… assume they are?

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