MPs’ Parliamentary privilege defence underlines need for written constitution

It’s no surprise to see that Labour MPs Jim Devine, David Chaytor and Elliot Morley, along with Conservative Peer Lord Hanningfield, are running scared and seeking to evade due process within the criminal justice system by claiming that Parliamentary privilege removes the Court’s jurisdiction over them.  It is spurious nonsense.  It is a desperate and cowardly effort to avoid being brought to trial for offences they are alleged to have committed.

Parliamentary privilege in this country pertains to the freedom of speech on the floor of both Houses in the Palace of Westminster.  It no longer protects MPs and Peers from civil actions and therefore it most certainly does not protect them from criminal proceedings.  The four Parliamentarians are hoping that an intepretation of privilege dating back to the 1685 Bill of Rights will enable them to dodge charges of false accounting under the Theft Act of 1968.

Julian Knowles, the barrister representing the MPs, said a trial in a criminal court would breach the constitutional separation of the legislature and judiciary.

“My clients should not be understood as saying they are above the law. That would be quite wrong.

“Parliamentary privilege is part of the law, and it is for Parliament to apply the law in their cases. The argument which they will present concerns the process by which the allegations should be determined; not whether they should be determined.”

That is utter rubbish.  Where a crime has been committed a trial in a criminal court must take place.  All citizens of this country must be equal before the law.  These men are saying they are a special case because they are MPs and that the charges relate to accounting matters that only came about because of their status.  It is a claim deserving of the same kind of contempt they themselves are demonstrating through their craven behaviour.

Every other citizen of this country would have to face a Court if such charges were brought against them, so these men must also be subject to criminal proceedings and trial by jury.  Anything less would position them as unequal in society and undermine the rule of law.  But we would not be experiencing this ‘make it up as we go along’ nonsense if this country had a clear written constitution setting out the rights and responsibilities of every citizen of the United Kingdom.  It is ridiculous that in this modern era our politicians are allowed to get away with applying arbitrary and self serving interpretations of rights and responsibilities by preventing them being cemented in writing and enshrined in law.

The fact we are now seeing the people who make the law trying to use their status as our elected representatives to avoid being subject to it, makes the need for a written constitution all the more urgent.  As citizens – or subjects if you will – of the United Kingdom we see our democracy being undermined, our national sovereignty being subverted and our political class positioning itself as beyond the law it imposes on the rest of us.  This state of affairs cannot and must not continue.  We must have a written constitution to protect our rights and prevent abuses of power.

2 Responses to “MPs’ Parliamentary privilege defence underlines need for written constitution”

  1. 1 Roybo 12/03/2010 at 4:47 pm

    Pity that Judge Jeffries isn’t still alive.

  1. 1 MPs fail in craven attempt to avoid justice over expenses « Autonomous Mind Trackback on 10/11/2010 at 11:54 am
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