Lord Taylor guilty of making false expenses claims

Colette McBeth reports on the Lord Taylor case

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Ex-Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick has been found guilty of making £11,277 in false parliamentary expenses claims.

The 58-year-old peer claimed travel costs between his Oxford home and Westminster, as well as subsistence for staying in London.

He claimed he had made the false claims "in lieu of a salary", and had been acting on the advice of colleagues.

But a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty by an 11-1 majority verdict.

He has been released on bail pending sentencing at a date to be confirmed.

Taylor, who was Britain's first black Conservative peer and a former barrister and radio and TV presenter, listed his main residence as a home in Oxford, which was owned by his nephew, while he actually lived in a flat in London.

He is the third Parliamentarian to appear in court over their expenses - two former Labour MPs, Eric Illsley and David Chaytor, have pleaded guilty. Chaytor is serving a prison sentence. Illsley is expected to be sentenced next month.

Eddie Tang, part of the legal team which represented Taylor, said his client was "devastated" by the verdict.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the jury had "seen through his dishonesty".

"He will now face the consequences of his actions," CPS lawyer Stephen O'Doherty said.

Taylor, who is also former vice-president of the British Board of Film Classification and Chancellor of Bournemouth University, said it had been a common practice among peers to claim for fake journeys and enter expenses claims with a false address as a main residence, and he believed it was acceptable to do this provided there was a "family connection" with the property.

'Alarm bells'

In sometimes emotional evidence from the witness box, he told how he had battled racism in his political career - he had been an unsuccessful Tory candidate in Cheltenham at the 1992 general election - and claimed he was in public life to "help people" and not for the money.

Start Quote

"It was a lightly policed scheme, open to abuse. Lord Taylor knew that, and he used it”

End Quote Helen Law Prosecution barrister

He described how he had undergone a drop in salary when he agreed to take on the unpaid role of a working Conservative peer in the House of Lords and had been told by senior peers it was normal practice to make false expenses claims "in lieu of salary".

But the prosecution said that as a man with a degree, who is a qualified barrister and a legislator, Lord Taylor should have been able to understand the rules set out in guidelines for peers.

Speaking of the trips he claimed for, prosecution barrister Helen Law said: "Those were journeys that didn't happen from a home that wasn't his. Taylor knew those facts and he said he didn't attempt to mislead anyone.

"I'm going to suggest that as a lawyer and as a member of the House of Lords, the alarm bells would have been ringing loud and clear."

She urged the jurors not to feel sorry for Taylor, telling them: "Firstly, it's not about sympathy. Just because your job doesn't pay you much doesn't mean you can put your hand in the till. You ask for a pay rise, and you explain why it isn't enough. If it doesn't go up, you leave and you get another job."

'Humble man'

Ms Law went on to say that Taylor should not be seen as a "scapegoat", adding "it was a lightly policed scheme, open to abuse. Taylor knew that, and he used it."

In his closing speech, Taylor's defence barrister, Mohammed Khamisa QC, said his client's actions had been "clumsy, illogical and stupid, but not a deliberate attempt to lie".

Mr Khamisa added: "He is not motivated by money. He is a humble man, a gentle and honest man, with a clear moral compass. He is not a man with a silver spoon in his mouth."

Liberal Democrat Lord Tyler said there was never a "free for all" on expenses

Summing up, Justice Saunders said Taylor was undoubtedly a man of good character who had devoted a lot of time to helping others.

Taylor, of Lynwood Road, Ealing, west London, denied allegations of false accounting on various dates between March 2006 and October 2007.

The first false expenses claim was for £1,555.70, the second for £2,042.80, the third was £1,600.70, the fourth £2,309.50, the fifth £2,421.80, and the final claim was for £1,347.30. The total was £11,277.80.

He was found guilty on all counts by a majority verdict of 11-1.

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