Scottish Labour politician Jim Devine and Labour colleagues David Chaytor and Elliot Morley are to be given taxpayers money in order to pay for lawyers as they face charges that they illegally claimed expenses as MP’s.
Court officials confirmed yesterday that the three Labour MP’s will receive taxpayer-funded legal aid.
Each has pled not guilty to the charge of theft; if convicted they would face a sentence of up to seven years in jail.
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.
Devine claimed on Channel Four News that he was instructed on how to fill in his expense forms by a senior Labour whip and that he understood it was common practice.
In total the three Labour MP’s are alleged to have stolen around £60,000 through false mortgage claims, rent claims and invoices for other services.
It is understood that the cost to the public purse of defending the three could run into six figures – higher if the case goes to the supreme court.
The three have already attempted to avoid a trial by jury, they had cited a 321 year old law claiming that they were protected by parliamentary privilege. They had also tried to prevent any reporting of the attempt.
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.”
There will be outrage at the amount of public cash awarded for the defence of the Labour MP’s.
The legal aid announcement is unfortunate for Labour coming only days after a Scottish candidate was sacked for posting abusive messages on twitter and following on from revelations involving a convicted criminal who attended a Labour party fundraiser for Jim Murphy.