Prosecution of Lord Taylor over his expenses claims

The trial of Lord Taylor on six charges of false accounting has commenced today in Southwark Crown Court.  The peer denies the allegations.

The prosecution, in its opening statement to the jury, asserts that Lord Taylor's expenses claims were false in three key respects:

  1. He said his main home was in Oxford when it was not
  2. He claimed nightly subsistence in London to which he was not entitled (because his home was in London)
  3. He claimed travel expenses for journeys between Oxford and London which he did not make.

Prosecuting counsel, Helen Law, says that the peer's state of mind is crucial - was he dishonestly intending to make a financial gain by false claims?  The prosecution points to email correspondence between Lord Taylor and a journalist which, the Crown say, demonstrates Lord Taylor's dishonesty.

Defence counsel says, however, that Lord Taylor was told that he could nominate as his main residence any property in the UK with which he had a connection, and that dishonesty is not in his make up.

The trial is expected to last several days.

Lord Taylor, a conservative peer, is the first person to come before a jury in connection with allegedly dishonest expenses claims following the scandal of MPs' expenses.  Former Labour MPs David Chaytor and Eric Illsley have already pleaded guilty to charges connected with their expenses claims.  Further cases are due to be heard in court later this year.

David

www.AccountingEvidence.com

Comments
cymraeg_draig's picture

Fact or nomination

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

"he could nominate as his main residence any property in the UK with which he had a connection"

 

From what I have read of the case THIS is the issue which will make or break the prosecution case. Interestingly Gordon Brown's "main residence" was in Scotland although he lived of course in number 11 then number 10 Downing Street.  Many MPs seemed to regularly "change" their main residence (depending on which one needed renovating or the moat clearing).  

If it is found that MPs can "nominate" their main residence, then that will cause outrage in the country (and presumably the acquittal of this defendant).

If, however, the court decides that a "main residence" is a matter of fact as opposed to a matter of nomination then surely every MP who changed their main residence, including Gordon Brown, Tony Blair et will have to be charged with making false expenses claims - and the House of Commons will be half empty.

This should be interesting ..............................................

 

Cheat?

JeremyNewman | | Permalink

His Lordship is reported on the BBC as saying that expenses were there to make up for a lack of salary. If so, did he report the expenses on his tax return? If not, surely HMRC should be investigating and, if appropriate, bringing a prosecution for cheat, or fraudulent preparation of an income tax return.

davidwinch's picture

Nominating a main residence

davidwinch | | Permalink

I think we must put out of our minds, when considering Lord Taylor's case, the Capital Gains Tax rules regarding which of a person's residences is his principal private residence.  There are statutory CGT rules on that which apply (only) for CGT purposes.

The issue here is not connected with CGT at all.

As I understand it the prosecution say that Lord Taylor owned only one property and that property was in London.  If he owned a property in London why would he claim subsistence expenses when he was in London on House of Lords business?  Presumably he incurred no extra accommodation costs as a result of needing to attend the House.

The explanation may be that he thought the subsistence was simply part of a daily allowance available to any peer who attended the House for Lords' business.

But even that would not appear to justify claiming travel costs from Oxford to London if he made no such journey!  A bit of an 'odd' one that.

Then there is the email correspondence with the journalist in which it appears he made some statements of 'fact' about his living arrangements and accommodation which were simply not true (apparently saying that in 2006 he was living in a Birmingham house which had been sold several years previously).  I understand defence counsel has described these statements by Lord Taylor as "silly" rather than dishonest. Hmmm!

However the mis-statements to the journalist are not the subject of the false accounting charges.

No doubt the newspapers will be full of this case over the next few days . . .

It will be useful if that coverage gives readers a better understanding of the meaning, and importance, of "dishonesty" in such cases.

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

Silly ?????

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

I understand defence counsel has described these statements by Lord Taylor as "silly" rather than dishonest. Hmmm!

 

Posted by davidwinch on Mon, 17/01/2011 - 18:58

 

 

Honest guvnor, when me and my mates robbed the bank with those sawn off shotguns we wuz only being "silly" - not dishonest.

I get the impression someone's counsel is struggling - and its only day one :)

 

ShirleyM's picture

Family home?

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Where did his family live (assuming he had a family who are 'happy' to live with him?

Surely the 'main' residence can only be the family home, if a family exists. Any other choice of 'main' residence should have to by justified in some way, eg. marital problems, and not just as an excuse for getting more tax free expenses.

davidwinch's picture

The Oxford property

davidwinch | | Permalink

My understanding is that Lord Taylor accepts that he never lived in Oxford, never had any financial interest in the Oxford house and has never stayed there overnight.  (The owner of the property says Lord Taylor has visited it twice, but never stayed there.)  However he maintains that the claims which he submitted were not dishonest and that, in effect, he was following accepted standard practice in submitting the claims (as he had a family connection with the property - it was owned by a relative of his).

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

What planet is he on ?

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

.........as he had a family connection with the property - it was owned by a relative of his).

David

 

Posted by davidwinch on Tue, 18/01/2011 - 13:05

 

On that basis I have a friend with a £150,000 Ferrari and Ive driven it a couple of times - maybe I should claim capital allowances on it ?

I really do think that the defence in this case is seriously struggling. In fact unless there is something we dont yet know counsel should have advised him to plead guilty because so far the "defence" explanation is beyond comical and verging on pathetic. 

 

ShirleyM's picture

Judgemental

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I hate to be judgemental, but his claim that this is not 'dishonest' is downright farcical.

If it turns out to be within the 'rules'... then shame on all MP's for allowing this sort of arrangement, or for turning a blind eye to these immoral expenses claims, for so long!

carnmores's picture

possibly myopic

carnmores | | Permalink

he is not and never was an MP tho he did stand if my memory serves me right as conservative for cheltenham but possibly due to racial prejudice he lost the by election - the HofL expenses are a completely different kettle of fish as it were to MPs

davidwinch's picture

Expenses rules for House of Lords

davidwinch | | Permalink

My understanding is that the court is hearing from various witnesses on the administration staff of the House of Lords as to what the 'rules' actually were for claims.

It may be the case that peers were permitted to claim that their main residence was one which they neither owned nor rented, provided that they had some sort of family connection to the property and visited it reasonably often.  If Lord Taylor only visited his 'main residence' twice then, as I understand it, that frequency of visits would be considered insufficient to support the claim.  Had he visited, say, once a month then it would have been considered acceptable for him to treat the Oxford property as his 'main residence' for the purpose of his expenses claims (even though he himself owned a property in London).

Similarly peers were only supposed to claim allowances in respect of days on which they actually attended the Lords (unsurprisingly, you may think) but apparently a 10% margin of error was routinely allowed for days claimed but not attended.

If those were the accepted 'rules' then it becomes less clear whether Lord Taylor (if he overstepped the mark) was dishonest (in the legal sense - did he realise he was doing wrong?).

David

carnmores's picture

no doubt the jurors have been warned not to

carnmores | | Permalink

google 'David Winch' ;-)

davidwinch's picture

Unusual features about the trial

davidwinch | | Permalink

There were a couple of unusual features about the early stages of the trial.

One was the length of the judge's instructions to the jury before the trial started.  These included warnings not to use the internet to do any 'research' or to announce on Facebook or Twitter that they were on the jury.

Another unusual feature is that the defence (as well as the prosecution) made an opening statement to the jury before the first witness was called.  The defence do not routinely make a public statement of their 'case' until after the prosecution evidence has been heard.  Indeed normally no defence statement is made to the jury until virtually the end of the trial (after all the evidence has been heard and just prior to the judge summimg up the case for the jury).

Of course the trial is also unusual in terms of the press interest and that the press are permitted to tweet whilst hearing the evidence in court.

David

davidwinch's picture

Lord Taylor's travel claims

davidwinch | | Permalink

Lord Taylor has been giving evidence today at his trial and has been subject to cross-examination.

If my understanding of his evidence is correct he admits that entries on his claim forms refer to journeys that were not made, but he asserts that he made other journeys which were further and for which he did not submit claims.  Therefore, overall, he under-claimed expenses.

He profoundly denies dishonesty.

His cross examination will continue tomorrow (in relation to his 'main residence').

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

It gets stranger ............

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

If my understanding of his evidence is correct he admits that entries on his claim forms refer to journeys that were not made, but he asserts that he made other journeys which were further and for which he did not submit claims.  Therefore, overall, he under-claimed expenses.

 

Posted by davidwinch on Thu, 20/01/2011 - 16:26

 

 

I'm struggling to see any element of defence in this.  He admits to claimimg for journeys he didnt make - thats it.  The fact he ommitted to claim for others is totally irrelevent.

This is a bit like saying yes I robbed Barclays, but it's OK because I didnt rob NatWest.

 

davidwinch's picture

Losing out overall . . .

davidwinch | | Permalink

But if Lord Taylor is, overall, claiming less than he is entitled to claim, is he being dishonest if some of the 'journeys' he does he claim for were not in fact made?

What would the ordinary decent juror on the Clapham omnibus say?

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

What would the ordinary decent juror on the Clapham omnibus say?

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

 

I think he would say that claiming for journeys he did not make is dishonest and shows an intention to make fraudulent claims. 

The fact that he failed to claim for some journeys he actually did (allegedly) make simply proves he's an incompetent crook. 

The fact he actually lost out overall should simply make them ask if such a demonstrably stupid person should be allowed a say in the government of a country.

Caber Feidh's picture

Would you have wanted this man as your barrister?

Caber Feidh | | Permalink

Lord Taylor is, or was, a barrister. How did "such a demonstrably stupid person," and allegedly also a dishonest one, become a member of the Bar?

I agree with C_D that his conduct seems clearly dishonest if he claims for specific journeys that he did not make. For him to be able to assert that he claimed less overall than he actually spent on his legitimate journeys, he would need to have kept a record of his legitimate journeys - so why did he not just take the simpler option of claiming for those?

If I may disagree with Carnmores, I thought the main reason the good people of Cheltenham did not elect him was that he was an outsider inflicted on them by Conservative Central Office, not that they were racist.

There is the prescient comment on Lord Taylor's website www.lordtaylor.org from a 1997 article about him in Ebony "there are really no monetary perks connected to his title, he explains, except compensation for attending sessions in the House of Lords as well as travelling and other expenses."

cymraeg_draig's picture

.

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

Lord Taylor is, or was, a barrister. How did "such a demonstrably stupid person," and allegedly also a dishonest one, become a member of the Bar?

 

Posted by mrbdunsmore on Fri, 21/01/2011 - 02:41

 

Every profession has it's "bad apples".

 

 

davidwinch's picture

If the courtroom tweets are any guide . . .

davidwinch | | Permalink

If the courtroom tweets are any guide the judge was making numerous interventions in the course of Lord Taylor's evidence today.

The judge's interventions (as tweeted) do not appear to have been particularly sympathetic to ther defendant. The judge apparently made comments such as "a home is where you reside & you did not reside in Oxford"; "did you never think to yourself 'this system is odd'?".

Lord Taylor apparently agreed that anyone who saw his forms (and did not know him) would think he lived in Oxford (which he did not).

He also agreed that he ceased to claim on that basis from 2007 "when questions were being asked" (but apparently did not, at that time at least, repay what he had previously claimed), and that when interviewed by police he 'went no comment' on legal advice.  He accepted that he "did not have a home outside London in literal terms" and that he could have told the fees office that "he had made a mistake with his address" but did not.  Hmmm!

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

The more I hear

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

did not have a home outside London in literal terms" and that he could have told the fees office that "he had made a mistake with his address" but did not.  Hmmm!

 

Posted by davidwinch on Fri, 21/01/2011 - 17:57

 

The more I hear, the more I feel he has been badly advised in pleading not guilty.  Although, having listened to Blair's additional evidence to the Iraq enquiry today I wonder why he isnt in the dock too.  Weren't Blair's expense claims "mysteriously" shredded ?  Now, if I was a cynic ....................................... 

davidwinch's picture

Jury unable to agree

davidwinch | | Permalink

The jury in Lord Taylor's case have been unable to agree on unanimous verdicts.

The judge has told them he will accept verdicts if at least 10 of them can agree.

The jury have retired to further consider.

David

davidwinch's picture

Majority verdict - GUILTY

davidwinch | | Permalink

By a majority verdict Lord Taylor has been found guilty of all six charges of false accounting which he faced.

He will be sentenced at a future hearing.  No date has yet been set for this.

David

carnmores's picture

are you in the court David - first with the news

carnmores | | Permalink

almost as quick as the Beeb

davidwinch's picture

Twitter!

davidwinch | | Permalink

Carnmores

Heard it on twitter.

David

davidwinch's picture

Confiscation?

davidwinch | | Permalink

I rather doubt that confiscation will be pursued in Lord Taylor's case.

But, interestingly, if it were, then Lord Taylor would be found to have a 'criminal lifestyle' (since he has been convicted on the same occasion of at least four offences from which he has benefited and the total benefit is at least £5,000 - s75 PoCA 2002).

David

 

DISSENTING JUROR

geofflusk | | Permalink

Based upon all of the evidence I am staggered that there was a dissenting juror in this matter. I think it sums up public morality in the UK. I think the dissenting juror must have been Lord Snout in the Trough. 

heaven forbid

The Black Knight | | Permalink

a dissenting juror ? what ever next, perhaps they should be hung by the lynch mob too ! lol

remember these rules apply to everyone, including the poor.

The principle of a fair trial should be upheld regardless, in my opinion.

cymraeg_draig's picture

kalden

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

The principle of a fair trial should be upheld regardless, in my opinion.

 

Posted by kalden on Wed, 26/01/2011 - 09:47

 

It should be  - but it rarely are.

With current changes to legal aid you, as an individual, are about to be denied representation in the lower courts.  An unrepresented defendant in a magistrates court has virtually no chance and will find themselves the victim of what amounts to a kangaroo court where bumbling amateurs advised by inadequate clerks take the word ofr police officers as gospel and automatically assume every defendant to be guilty.

I find it difficult to see how any juror could not convict in this case, but jurors can be unpredictable and sometimes act on their own  prejudices instead of the evidence.  It is for this reason that I prefer the American system of jury selection, or, alternatively, believe that a jury should always consist of 14 jurors with a 12-2 majority being the minimum requirement for a verdict. 

Of course that will never happen as recent movement seems to be more towards denying defendants rights and putting all the power in the hands of judges, which is dangerous as there are some horrendously biased judges about (I could name a few) and justice will be a thing of the past.

 

 

davidwinch's picture

Appeal?

davidwinch | | Permalink

Of course there is always the possibility that Lord Taylor could appeal his conviction.  If he does so then the Court of Appeal will have to decide if the conviction is 'safe'.  That is a rather different question from 'is he guilty?'.

The journalists' reports suggested that the judge intervened rather a lot during Lord Taylor's evidence - and may have asked some questions of his own rather than merely seeking to clarify the defendant's answers to counsel's questions.

There could be grounds for an appeal.

David

cymraeg_draig's picture

Not unusual

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

The journalists' reports suggested that the judge intervened rather a lot during Lord Taylor's evidence - and may have asked some questions of his own rather than merely seeking to clarify the defendant's answers to counsel's questions.

 

Posted by davidwinch on Wed, 26/01/2011 - 15:18

 

That's not that unusual. To give grounds for appeal the defence would have to satisfy the court that by asking the questions he did, the judge actually displayed bias and assisted the prosecution in some way.  

Caber Feidh's picture

Judicial cross-examination

Caber Feidh | | Permalink

The posts about judicial cross-examination and C_D’s comments about “horrendously biased judges” struck a chord with my sole experience of being a witness in a civil trial.

Aside from my factual evidence, my technical expertise had led to the demolition of all the false evidence on which the Defendants’ case had relied but they had still chosen to go to trial. The judge’s opening comments showed clearly which way his sympathies lay. He started my cross-examination and, as I recollect, was responsible for most of it. He then allowed the Defence to introduce "evidence" from the witness box that was entirely new, unsupported by any documents - and false. He decided against the Claimant on the basis of this new "evidence". Then, since, it had contradicted some of what I had said, he made a series of adverse comments about my conduct, embellished with further "evidence" he invented. The Claimant’s counsel said that we had been stitched up but there was nothing we could do about it and we would just have to take it on the chin. Actually, there was. I located the evidence of perjury by a Defence witness and the Court of Appeal, where you meet a higher standard of judge, ordered a retrial before a different judge.

There were two further worrying conclusions from this case: (a) Lying is entirely advantageous: if you are believed you win your case but there are no penalties if your perjury is uncovered. (b) If a judge makes invalid statements about you in his judgment, there seems to be no way to expunge them nor to prevent them being exploited, even when a retrial has been ordered by a higher court.

davidwinch's picture

Penalties for perjury

davidwinch | | Permalink

Not quite true to say there are no penalties for lying in a civil case.

A certain Mr Sheridan has recently been sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for precisely that.

However perjury proceedings are uncommon - whereas different witnesses providing irreconcilable accounts of the same event is not!

David

Caber Feidh's picture

Penalties for perjury

Caber Feidh | | Permalink

In the case to which I referred, the perjury was not only proven but admitted in writing before the case went to the Court of Appeal. It was certainly not just a case of witnesses having different recollections.

cymraeg_draig's picture

Liars

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

Perjury is indeed quite common -

I had a witness claim to have definitely seen a car registration A**1** in May, when the log book proved it was first registered in July of that year.

I had a witness claim to have been visiting their sick father on a particular date, and even give details of the breakfast they made for him, when a death certificate proved that on the date in question their father had been dead for 2 years.

I had a witness claim to have seen a car at location A, follow it to location B, and give precise times for both sightings. Examonation of a map proved that to do so the vehicles must have traveled at over 300mph - through town, at rush hour.

I had a witness swear to have seen a vehicle at location A - when police records proved it was 6 miles away being booked for speeding at the time in question.

Three things all these liars had in common - they all swore to tell the truth, they all had notes made at the time so couldnt blame faulty memory, and, they were all POLICE OFFICERS. And all these lies were told by officers in one case - a classic case of bumbling bobbies too thick to even tell convincing lies in an attempt to "stitch up" an innocent defendant. 

Guess what? Some of these proven liars are still serving police officers - disgraceful.

 

 

davidwinch's picture

Sentence

davidwinch | | Permalink

Lord Taylor has been sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment and is now in prison.

Fortunately he will not be bumping into Eric Illsley or David Chaytor whilst he is inside - they are already out of prison on home detention with an electronic tag, having served the requisite portion of their sentences 'inside'.

His sentence will not automatically cause him to lose his place in the House of Lords.

David

Donald2000's picture

This is all old hat but I understand the system was as described

Donald2000 | | Permalink

I understand the old system of expenses claims within the Lords for members was that there was a payment of £174.00 per day for attendance and if that attendance included an overnight stay (ie that there was not a property which was owned or rented within the London area by that person) then the extra £174.00 night subsistence rate was payable. Please excuse me if these figures are not correct.

If Lord Taylor had a residence within the London area then the night subsistence rate was not payable.

I dont know where the bit about residing in Oxford comes into it at all; what connection did he have with that place?

I must read the case because apart from the highlight of him having told the court his mates urged him on to do it, I dont have the faintest idea how he got into that sort of jam in the first place?

One last thing: he knows full well that expenses is not in lieu of a salary.

 

davidwinch's picture

Nominating a residence

davidwinch | | Permalink

If I recall correctly Lord Taylor (claimed that he) understood the situation to be that he was permitted to 'nominate' a residence to be his 'address'.  He did not have to own the property, or live there, so long as he had a 'family connection' to it.

He nominated a property in Oxford as his address.  It was owned (I think) by the partner of a nephew of his.  He had only ever visited that property twice in his life.  He had never slept there.  He did however own and normally sleep at a flat in London.

Because his 'address' was outside London he was allowed (he asserted) to claim the higher rate of allowance.

The prosecution asserted that the claims were dishonest and pointed to other allegedly dishonest behaviour by the defendant is support of his dishonesty in connection with expenses (notably some manifestly untrue 'explanations' emailed to an investigative journalist earlier and some claims for travel to and from Oxford when he had made no such journeys).

The jury returned majority guilty verdicts.

David

Donald2000's picture

@David - Appeal

Donald2000 | | Permalink

Are we not making a bit of a leap from stating that the judge asked some questions of his own to Lord Taylor making an appeal. As far as my legal training has gone, I have not been told yet that a judge has to keep quiet during the trial except as an interpreter. He may have thought that he wanted to clarify certain situations. Thats the whole principle of Judge John Deed by the way, that the man made interpretations of his own, rather than sit there in a sterile and non commital way. So I dont quite see why judicial comment in a case should raise eyebrows especially. I note that you say "reporters" commented on this. May I ask what specialist training reporters have had that they might question the efficacy of judges.

If and when it is proven that the judge wilfully mislead and misdirected the jury to the point that they were not able to give a safe verdict then I will accept that there is a case for an appeal. But it sounds to me as if no-one misdirected anyone and a case of sour grapes that the miscreant was properly convicted. 

davidwinch's picture

@Donald

davidwinch | | Permalink

I do not believe there is any prospect of an appeal against Lord Taylor's conviction.

However, on a more general point, during the questioning of witnesses judges are supposed to act as referees and may, of course, interrupt occasionally to clarify the evidence the witness has given (for example where an answer is unclear or ambiguous).  However they are not supposed to be advocates (players rather than referees, if you like).  They should avoid initiating new lines of questioning of a witness and should avoid interrupting (or speaking to counsel in front of the jury) in a way that suggests bias in favour of one side or the other or prevents counsel from developing an appropriate line of questioning.

Successful appeals against convictions as a result of such misbehaviour by the judge are rare. However I can give a few examples.  The case of R v Cole [2008] EWCA Crim 3234 made news at the time - largely because the judge sent defence counsel a note headed "6Ps" - "Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance".  That however was not the only complaint made about the judge's handling of that trial.  He was rather dismissive of defence counsel throughout.

A second, rather less colourful, example was R v Lashley [2005] EWCA Crim 2016 in which the judge repeatedly interrupted defence counsel's cross-examination of witnesses by making comments such as "Let us not be silly; let us move on" and "This is really nonsense".

In R v Copsey & Copsey [2008] EWCA Crim 2043 the problem was that the judge 'descended into the arena' in questioning witnesses himself.  One element of the defence case was that Mrs Copsey had drafted letters although Mr Copsey had signed them.  The judge (in his own questioning of Mr Copsey about this) described that procedure as "bizarre".

It has been said that:

"Interventions to clear up ambiguities, interventions to enable the judge to make certain that he is making an accurate note, are of course perfectly justified, but the interventions which give rise to a quashing of a conviction are really three fold: those which invite the jury to disbelieve the evidence for the defence which is put to the jury in such strong terms that it cannot be cured by the common formula that the facts are for the jury and you, members of the jury, must disregard anything that I, the judge, may have said with which you disagree.

The second ground giving rise to a quashing of a conviction is where the interventions have made it really impossible for counsel for the defence to do his or her duty in properly presenting the defence, and thirdly, in cases where the interventions have had the effect of preventing the prisoner himself from doing himself justice and telling the story in his own way."

(From R v Hulusi and Purvis (1973) 58 Cr App R 378 quoted in the judgment of R v Zarezadeh [2011] EWCA Crim 271 at para 17.)

Hopefully that gives an indication of the boundaries which a judge should be careful not to cross.

David

Judges

Stephen Morris | | Permalink

 When I did my jury service about 2 years ago I was very impressed by the way the judges conducted the trials. They bent over backwards to ensure that the accused received fair trials. I have nothing but admiration for them.

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