Margaret Moran expenses trial: Ex-MP will not face jury

Margaret Moran Margaret Moran is accused of dishonestly making expenses claims totalling about £80,000

Former Luton South MP Margaret Moran, who is accused of fiddling her parliamentary expenses, will not face a jury, a judge has decided.

Mr Justice Saunders said Ms Moran, 56, would not have to appear in court, after psychiatrist Philip Joseph said she was not fit to stand trial.

Dr Joseph said the ex-Labour MP was suffering from a depressive illness and had extreme anxiety and agitation.

Ms Moran did not attend the hearing at Lewes Crown Court.

Ms Moran, of Ivy Road, St Denys, Southampton, Hampshire, was described as weeping inconsolably when she appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court last year on 15 charges of false accounting and six of using a false instrument relating to expense claims totalling about £80,000.

Analysis

The main thing people couldn't understand about Margaret Moran's expenses is why an MP for Luton, who worked in London, was claiming expenses on a home in Southampton.

She said that was her second home and that's why the taxpayer should pay towards it.

Two weeks after expenses allegations appeared in the Daily Telegraph she announced that she wouldn't stand for re-election.

She called me in tears telling me that she had been ill for some time and now her doctor was worried about her long-term health.

But she was still unrepentant: "I may have been stupid but I've done nothing wrong," she insisted.

I kept hearing reports that she'd been seen laughing and dining in the House of Commons and enjoying herself at her home in Spain.

Ten months later she was secretly filmed by Channel 4 offering her services as a lobbyist. Any sympathy people still had for her in Luton went.

Margaret Moran was a good MP in some respects - she championed local causes, the role of women in politics and she worked hard to reduce racial tensions in Luton.

The tragedy is that she will always be associated with the parliamentary expenses scandal.

It is alleged that Ms Moran, who stood down at the last election, "flipped" her designated second home, making claims for properties in London, Luton and Southampton.

Other allegations include that she dishonestly claimed £22,500 to repair dry rot at her Southampton home.

She is also accused of falsely claiming £14,805 for boiler repairs and work on her conservatory.

Dr Joseph told Lewes Crown Court the stress of the proceedings and allegations she was facing made it impossible for her to participate in court proceedings.

He said she had tried to harm herself and there was a risk of suicide.

He added that she felt feelings of abandonment by the Labour Party and shame that her career was over.

Mr Justice Saunders said: "Dr Joseph has attempted to discuss the allegations with her and is satisfied that she is not able to give proper instructions.

"He recorded her as saying 'I just want to plead guilty and be punished', but his view and my judgement is that is unlikely to have been a response reached after a proper consideration of the allegations and is simply an attempt to get the matter over with and assuage feelings of guilt which may relate to other matters."

He added that both sides were in broad agreement and all the experts agreed that Ms Moran is unfit to plead.

The case was adjourned to Southwark Crown Court on 15 November for a three-day hearing for a jury to determine whether the defendant committed the acts alleged by the prosecution.

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