Tory MPs 'tried to influence judge who jailed sex attacker MP'
Five Tory backbenchers blasted by Commons standards watchdog for trying to ‘influence judicial proceedings’ involving Charlie Elphicke with letters to judge after ex-Tory MP was jailed for sex attacks on two women
- Natalie Elphicke, Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart
- All blasted for writing to judge attempting to keep secret character references
- Five Tories had urged judge to be lenient towards former MP Charlie Elphicke
- Ex-Dover MP jailed for two years last September for sex attacks on two women
Five Tory backbenchers have been castigated by the Commons standards watchdog for trying to influence a judge who revealed their support for a former MP who was jailed for sex attacks on two women.
The Commons Standards Committee recommended that Natalie Elphicke – the convicted perv’s now ex-wife, Sir Roger Gale and Theresa Villiers should be suspended for one day for their actions last year.
The three, along with fellow Tories Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart, breached the code of conduct through a letters to senior judges that were ‘an attempt improperly to influence judicial proceedings,’ it said.
All five wrote to senior members of the judiciary raising concerns that the trial judge was considering publishing positive character references provided for Mr Elphicke by Conservatives politicians.
The former Dover MP was jailed for two years last September after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women.
One of them said he had asked her about bondage and sex, then kissed her and groped her breast before chasing her around his home, chanting: ‘I’m a naughty Tory.’
But it was not revealed until November that five Tories had provided positive references to the judge at Southwark Crown Court – MPs Gale, Stewart, Holloway and Villiers, plus peer Lord Freud.
Freud has already apologised over the letter after having also been found to have breached the code of conduct.
Elphicke, the former Dover MP, was jailed for two years last September after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women.
It was revealed in November that MPs including his ex-wife Natalie – who replaced him as Dover MP – provided positive references to the judge at Southwark Crown Court.
The Commons Standards Committee recommended that Mrs Elphicke , Sir Roger Gale and Theresa Villiers (both above) should be suspended for one day for their actions last year
MPs Bob Stewart, Sir Roger Gale, Adam Holloway and Theresa Villiers, and peer Lord Freud published letters provided to the court after Charlie Elphicke was convicted in September after a judge ruled they could be released
In their letters they acknowledged Mr Elphicke’s crimes and the effect on his victims, but ask the judge to take into account his years of long service as Dover MP from 2010 to 2019. Such documents are often introduced in sentencing hearings.
Their existence was only revealed after a battle by news organisations to make them public.
In December 2020, Mrs Justice Whipple agreed to a representation by the media to release the identities of those behind the character references.
Amid that battle in November, the five MPs censured today used House of Commons headed paper to write to Dame Kathryn Thirwall, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, and Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen’s Bench Division.
The letter ‘express[ed] concern’ that trial judge Mrs Justice Whipple was holding a hearing into whether the character references should be released, and argued that a decision to disclose the references would be a ‘radical change to judicial practice’ which ‘could have the [sic] chilling effect and harm the criminal justice system’.
But the Standards Committee today ruled: ‘Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges.’
The MPs’ behaviour was found to have ’caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity’ of the House of Commons.
Of the three recommended for suspension, two had ‘substantial legal experience’ while the third, Sir Roger, is both the longest standing of the group and ‘still does not accept his mistake’.
They were all told to apologise to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, as well as to the House.
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