Friday, 11 June 2010

MPs expenses case: judicial ruling favours trial before impartial jury

Law and Lawyers covered the MP's expenses case here.  The trial judge, Saunders J, has ruled that no bar to a trial before judge and jury can be based on parliamentary privilege.  Saunders J is reported as having said that there was no logical, practical or moral justification for them using parliamentary privilege to prevent a trial and he added that there was no legal basis either.  "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."  This is actually an interesting legal issue.  Parliamentary Privilege belongs to parliament and not to individual members.  Privilege exists essentially to ensure that members have freedom in debate to speak their minds.  Even if the defence had not raised this point, the trial judge would have had to consider it so as to be sure that the matter was not covered by privilege.  The fact that the point has been argued is by no means an indicator of guilt.  See BBC 11th June 2010.

Addendum: 25th June - The Law Society Gazette (24th June) published an article by Joshua Rozenberg which is definitely worth reading on this topic.

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