Three Tory MPs 'should be suspended' over 'egregious' bid to influence judge

Tories Theresa Villiers, Sir Roger Gale and Natalie Elphicke have been recommended for a one day suspension. Credit: PA

Three Tory MPs should be suspended over an "egregious" bid to influence judicial proceedings, the Commons Standards Committee has said.

Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers, Natalie Elphicke, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart were found to have broken the rules by seeking to interfere in a legal decision regarding their former colleague Charlie Elphicke who was jailed for sexual assault last year.

They had written to a judge using House of Commons stationary, urging her not to reveal that they had written character references supporting Mr Elphicke ahead of his sentencing.

A report concluding an investigation into their conduct said Sir Roger, Ms Villiers and Ms Elphicke should be "suspended from the service of the House for one sitting day and should apologise".

The other two were told they should also apologise but were not recommended for suspension.

"The letters signed and sent by the members in this case were an attempt improperly to influence judicial proceedings," the report said.

"Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges."

Mr Elphicke, who was the MP for Dover, was pleaded not guilty but was convited for one count of sexual assault in 2007 and two further counts in 2016.

Mr Elphicke was forced to step down as MP for Dover and his wife Natalie succeeded him. Credit: PA

He was forced to step down as an MP in November 2019 and his wife Natalie succeeded him as MP for Dover following the general election of that year.

Mr Elphicke was sentenced to two years in prison in September 2020.

The report said the conduct of all five MPs "risked giving the impression" that elected politicians can influence legal proceedings and they "undertook an action which caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons.

Ms Villiers, Ms Elphicke and Sir Roger, were recommended for tougher sanctions than their two colleagues because the former two had "substantial legal experience" and the latter "still does not accept his mistake".

Ms Villiers has apologised "sincerely", with her spokesperson saying she "deeply regrets the mistake she made".

"She has apologised sincerely for doing this. The correspondence was well-intentioned, but Ms Villiers recognises that it was wrong to raise this matter with judges when a court hearing was pending."

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