The three Labour MP’s accused of theft have argued that they should not face trial for the alleged offences because they are members of parliament.
Scottish Labour MP Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Elliot Morley have been told that their arguments will be heard between May 4 and 6, the same week the general election is expected to be held.
The three are citing a 321 year old law in an attempt at escaping trial by jury, claiming that they are protected by parliamentary privilege. Each has pled not guilty to the charge of theft; if convicted they would face a sentence of up to seven years in jail.
An application for a secrecy order made on behalf of the accused which would have prevented reporting of the legal argument was thrown out.
Judge Rivlin refused the request saying: “Do you think there is any adult in the country who does not know there is going to be an argument about parliamentary privilege?
“I do not believe for one moment that should there be a jury sworn in, that that jury will be the least bit affected or prejudiced by the knowledge that there is going to be an argument about parliamentary privilege.”
Devine, 56, the Labour MP for Livingston, is accused of wrongly submitting invoices worth a total of £5,505 for printing services. He faces a second charge alleging that he dishonestly claimed costs of £3,240 by submitting another false invoice.
The Labour party has been accused of putting party politics before constituents. The criticism follows the news that Anne Moffat is to sue her local Labour party after finally losing her battle to retain the candidacy of the East Lothian seat.
It follows months of disarray and infighting that saw Moffat criticise both Gordon Brown and Iain Gray over the handling of the whole fiasco, in which she claims she had been bullied.
Commenting, The SNP’s Campaign Coordinator Stewart Hosie said:
“This whole mess just seems to escalate week after week and the people of East Lothian are suffering as a consequence.
“With the General Election not far away, what the area needs is a local SNP champion to work hard for East Lothian at Westminster by standing against Labour squabbling and standing up for Scotland – someone who will champion local priorities, not their own priorities.”
“Labour in Scotland is now drowning in a sea of sleaze reminiscent of the dying days of John Major’s administration in the 1990s.
“There are serious question marks over the way Labour has been running Glasgow City Council and using taxpayers’ money, Scottish Labour MP Jim Devine has been charged with false accounting over his expenses, Labour MP for East Lothian Anne Moffat has been controversially deselected but will pocket £30,000 a year in a pension despite only being an MP since 2001, and another former Labour minister, East Kilbride MP Adam Ingram, has been caught trying to gain financially by using his ministerial contacts.
“Labour have badly let down the people of Scotland.”