Fraud accused says MP Carolyn Harris attacked her

Published
Image source, Wales News Service
Image caption,
Jenny Lee Clarke denies carrying out the fraud in 2015

A woman accused of forging an MP's signature to give herself a pay rise has told a court she was once attacked by her.

Jenny Lee Clarke, who used to manage Carolyn Harris's constituency office in Swansea East, is accused of raising her salary by £2,000 and cutting her hours.

Ms Clarke told Cardiff Crown Court the Welsh Labour deputy leader "just attacked me". Mrs Harris has denied it.

Ms Clarke, 42, from Swansea, denies committing forgery and fraud in 2015.

The court heard the alleged attack happened when both women were both working for Sian James, who was the incumbent MP at the time.

Ms Clarke told jurors she had been sitting at her desk, with Mrs Harris rubbing her shoulders, when the future MP "grabbed" her head and shook her "violently".

"She just attacked me," the defendant said, adding that after the attack Mrs Harris was "on her hands and knees saying sorry [and] she loved me more than her son".

The court heard Ms Clarke did not report the incident to police or Ms James at the time, but did see a doctor and took time off work.

Mrs Harris, who became an MP in May 2015 after Ms James stood down, denied the claims during the trial.

Ms Clarke said "everything changed" when Mrs Harris became an MP because "her ego went through the roof".

Image caption,
Jurors have also heard that Carolyn Harris had been warned about making comments regarding Ms Clarke's sexuality

She said her new boss "detested paperwork" and that she would regularly sign official parliamentary forms in Mrs Harris' name.

The court heard she would also sign and send off forms to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), the body responsible for payroll in parliament.

Asked if she signed Ipsa forms in Mrs Harris's name, the defendant replied: "Yes and other forms, all forms, whatever she needed, as and when, I did what I was told," adding her boss would say "just sign it and send it off".

The court previously heard the pair later fell out after Ms Clarke was appointed and the office manager was sacked before the alleged fraud came to light.

Ms Clarke, who initially earned £37,000 a year, is accused of increasing it to £39,000 while cutting her hours from 40 to 37-and-a-half a week in the months after the 2015 General Election.

'Never discussed'

Giving evidence, the defendant said: "I signed the form, on Carolyn's instructions."

Asked if she intended to be dishonest or mislead anyone, she replied each time: "No."

She said she was under the instruction of Mrs Harris to give herself "a couple of thousand" when she was changing the contract of another employee.

The court has previously heard that Mrs Harris, who is shadow minister for women and equalities, said a pay rise "was never discussed".

Jurors have also heard that Mrs Harris had been warned about making comments regarding Ms Clarke's sexuality and frequently made comments about her choice of clothes and hairstyles, but defended the comments as "office banter".

The trial continues.

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