Supreme Court ruling to see former MPs stand trial over expenses claims

The Supreme Court has ruled that three former Labour MPs must face a criminal trial over their expenses claims.

Nine Supreme Court justices upheld a decision handed down by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge in July that rejected arguments that the case should be heard by parliament rather than open court.

Steel & Shamash named partner Gerald Shamash instructed counsel to act for the trio.

Doughty Street’s Gavin Millar QC acted for James Devine; 39 Essex Street’s Nigel Plemming acted for David Chaytor; and the third appellant Elliot Morley was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC of Doughty Street.

Blackstone Chambers’ David Pannick QC was instructed to act for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at the hearing.

The Supreme Court rejected arguments that the appellants benefited from parliamentary privilege  and therefore charges of theft by false accounting should be heard by parliament.

Pleming argued that because the expenses scheme was created and administered by Parliament for parliamentarians, their case should be heard by Parliament.

Supreme Court president Lord Phillips this morning rejected the appeal and said reasons would be given at a later date.

The trio will  now stand trial at Southwark Crown Court.

The ruling comes after  two High Court judges told Labour shadow immigration minister Phil Woolas to vacate his constituency seat in Oldham East & Saddleworth (OES) after he was found to have breached election laws.

Shamash instructed Millar to act for Woolas in that case (5 November 2010).