Regina v Morley; Regina v Chaytor; Regina v Devine; Regina v Lord Hanningfield: CC 11 Jun 2010

(Southwark Crown Court) The defendants faced charges of false accounting in connection with expense claims as members of parliament, three of the House of Commons and one of the Lords. Each claimed that the matter was covered by Parliamentary Privilege and that a civil court had no jurisdiction to try them.
Held: The claims to privilege failed. Saunders J said: ‘Although Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 is the best-known example of parliamentary privilege and has enshrined in Statute the privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament, it is part only of a much broader privilege which is found in the common law. Article 9 provides that ‘the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament’.’
However: ‘in the context of criminal charges Parliamentary privilege should be narrowly construed. The principle that all men are equal before the law is an important one and should be observed unless there is good reason why it should not apply. To do otherwise would risk bringing both the Courts and Parliament into disrepute and diminish confidence in the criminal justice system. Parliament does not have an effective procedure for investigating and deciding whether a member is guilty or not guilty of criminal charge’
It was significant that ‘neither House has sought to assert that these proceedings come within the jurisdiction of Parliament. This is of particular significance as the privilege, if it exists, belongs to Parliament and not the individual members.’ and ‘Wherever a line is drawn there may be anomalies. The fact that it is the submission of the claim form that sets the machinery of Parliament in motion does not make it part of that machinery just as putting a coin in a slot machine does not make the coin part of the mechanism of the slot machine just because it initiates the process.’
He continued: ‘The claiming of expenses is an individual activity for the benefit of the individual and any benefit to Parliament as a whole is not a direct one. Further it is not part of a Member’s duty to claim his expenses or allowances. He could not be criticised for failing to carry out his duties as an MP if he did not claim his allowances and his expenses. It would not be an interference with the workings of Parliament or obstruct the carrying out of their business. None of the justifications for the existence of privilege would seem to apply to the submission of the form. In my judgment it does not come within the scope of the ‘exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament’ on any sensible construction of that privilege.’

Saunders J
[2010] EW Misc 9 (EWCC)
Bailii, Judiciary
Bill of Rights 1689 9
England and Wales
CitedBradlaugh v Gossett 9-Feb-1884
Bradlaugh, though duly elected Member for a Borough, was refused by the Speaker to administer oath and was excluded from the House by the serjeant at arms. B challenged the action.
Held: The matter related to the internal management of the . .
CitedPrebble v Television New Zealand Ltd PC 27-Jun-1994
(New Zealand) The plaintiff, an MP, pursued a defamation case. The defendant wished to argue for the truth of what was said, and sought to base his argument on things said in Parliament. The plaintiff responded that this would be a breach of . .
CitedOffice of Government Commerce v Information Commissioner and Another Admn 11-Apr-2008
The Office appealed against decisions ordering it to release information about the gateway reviews for the proposed identity card system, claiming a qualified exemption from disclosure under the 2000 Act.
Held: The decision was set aside for . .
CitedMcGuinness, Re Application for Judicial Review QBNI 3-Oct-1997
The claimant was an MP from Northern Ireland. As an MP he had been required to swear allegiance to the Crown, but he had refused to do so for his belief in an independent Ireland. He challenged the decision of the Speaker of the House to refuse him . .
CitedPepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart HL 26-Nov-1992
Reference to Parliamentary Papers behind Statute
The inspector sought to tax the benefits in kind received by teachers at a private school in having their children educated at the school for free. Having agreed this was a taxable emolument, it was argued as to whether the taxable benefit was the . .
CitedAttorney-General of Ceylon v de Livera PC 1963
A member of the House of Representatives was offered 5,000 rupees for writing to the Minister of Lands and Development withdrawing an application previously made to the Minister to acquire an estate. The offeror was found guilty of offering a . .
CitedJennings v Buchanan PC 14-Jul-2004
(New Zealand) (Attorney General of New Zealand intervening) The defendant MP had made a statement in Parliament which attracted parliamentary privilege. In a subsequent newspaper interview, he said ‘he did not resile from his claim’. He defended the . .
CitedRegina v Greenaway CC 25-Jun-1992
(Central Criminal Court) The defendant Member of Parliament had faced charges of accepting bribes in return for advancing the interests of a commercial company.
Held: The charges were dismissed on the request of the prosecution after a . .

Cited by:
Appeal fromChaytor and Others, Regina v CACD 30-Jul-2010
The defendants had been members of the Houses of Commons and of Lords. They faced charges of dishonesty in respect of their expenses claims. They now appealed a finding that they were not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament under . .
At Crown CourtChaytor and Others, Regina v SC 1-Dec-2010
The defendants faced trial on charges of false accounting in connection in different ways with their expenses claims whilst serving as members of the House of Commons. They appealed against rejection of their assertion that the court had no . .
CitedKimathi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office QBD 20-Dec-2017
Parliamentary privilege The claimants sought to have admitted as evidence extracts from Hansard in support of their claim for damages arising from historic claims.
Held: The court set out the authorities and made orders as to each element. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Crime

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.417821