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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

MPs' Expenses: Labour's Margaret Moran Faces 21 Charges

Ex-Labour MP to appear before magistrates over charges including false accounting and forgery related to claims worth more than £60,000.

Former MP Margaret Moran, who is to face 21 charges in relation to claims she made for parliamentary expenses.

The former MP Margaret Moran is to face 21 criminal charges for allegedly making illegal parliamentary expense claims, the Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday.

The ex-Labour member for Luton South will be prosecuted on 15 charges of false accounting and six charges of forgery related to claims worth more than £60,000.

Investigations into Moran centred on allegations that she repeatedly "flipped" her designated second home, making claims for properties in London, Luton and Southampton over a four-year period.

Moran claimed more than £20,000 to have dry rot treated at her Southampton home, which is almost 100 miles from either her former constituency or Westminster, according to House of Commons documents. She has maintained that she is innocent of any wrongdoing.

She is the last of 10 MPs and peers whose parliamentary expense claims have been referred to a specially convened panel of police and prosecutors for assessment. Of those, seven have been referred for prosecution. The decision to prosecute comes more than two years after details of MPs' claims on their expenses were disclosed to a national newspaper. Detectives handed a file related to Moran's claims to prosecutors in December last year.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said that the charges followed a lengthy inquiry into claims made to furnish and improve her main residences.

"Having thoroughly reviewed the evidence gathered by the police, we have decided there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to bring criminal charges against Margaret Moran.

"The summons relates to 15 charges of false accounting, contrary to the Theft Act 1968. It is alleged that she claimed expenses for the furnishing and improvement of main residences between November 2004 and August 2008 through a scheme intended for the maintenance of second homes or offices.

"Ms Moran also faces six charges of forgery, contrary to the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, where it is alleged that she submitted forged invoices in support of some of her claims," he said.

A decision on whether to prosecute was held up because of Moran's ill health. She had claimed that she was too unwell to be interviewed by detectives.

She has been summonsed to appear at City of Westminster magistrates' court, central London, on 19 September.

On 15 May 2009, the director of public prosecutions and the Metropolitan police commissioner set up a panel of senior police officers and senior prosecuting lawyers to assess complaints about parliamentary expense claims.

In total 10 files of evidence related to 10 individuals have been submitted to the CPS for a charging decision. Of those, seven cases including that of Moran have resulted in charges. No further action was taken in two cases and the request for a charging decision on one file was withdrawn by the police. There are no longer any cases to be considered by the panel.Former MPs David Chaytor, Eric Illsley, Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, and peers Lord Taylor of Warwick and Lord Hanningfield have been jailed over the scandal. Devine was released in August after serving four months of a 16-month sentence. Illsley and Chaytor were released and were tagged.

In 2009, Moran married her long-time partner of 30 years, Michael Booker, who lives and works at Southampton University as the safety adviser. They have no children. She has written that her personal interests include céilidhs, visiting historical sites, walking and eating curry.

Starmer warned the media over reporting of Moran's impending prosecution. "Margaret Moran now stands charged with criminal offences and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice her trial," he said.

A Labour party spokesman said: "Margaret Moran is suspended from membership of the Labour party and is no longer an MP."

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