Lord Taylor of Warwick guilty. He had a title, he thought he was entitled, jury says wrong.

January 26, 2011 11:43 AM

Lord Taylor of Warwick woke up this morning knowing that his days as a free man could be numbered. Yesterday a jury found him guilty of fraudulently claiming expenses. The former peer had been on trial since Monday 17th of January over the personal expense claims he made totalling more than £11,000. He was said to be “devastated” at the result and as a qualified barrister he’ll be aware that he faces a possible four year jail sentence. He could be swapping his gown for a prison uniform.

Lord Taylor had pleaded innocent but did admit to giving false information. The 58 year old claimed that he was living in Oxford when he was actually in Ealing in London, so the prosecution managed to show that the expenses he claimed to travel from Oxford to London and overnight costs were dishonest. We mentioned this last week when his half nephew, who does live in the house, was giving evidence.

The prosecution summed up the case saying:

"Those were journeys that didn't happen from a home that wasn't his. Lord 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."

Lord Taylor had pleaded innocent. During the trial Lord Taylor tried to back up his plea by claiming another peer had told him he would be "crazy" not to claim the maximum allowances.  Lord Colwyn denied saying this when questioned by the court. Lord Taylor also said there was ambiguity over the rules, that they were a “quirk” of the House of Lords. The defence claimed that it was seen as acceptable to take expenses in lieu of salary, that this practice was “commonplace”. The jury was unconvinced and took just five hours to return with an 11 - 1 majority finding that Lord Taylor was guilty of all six charges. The taxpayers he cheated will now have to wait to hear what his sentence will be. Lord Taylor is free on unconditional bail until then.

The previous expenses system was based on trust and not evidence; expenses wouldn’t have been checked for authenticity, rather the honesty of the Lords was relied on. Lords were trusted to behave responsibly with taxpayers’ money. This conviction shows that at least one of them abused that trust; it sends a clear message that falsifying records to obtain extra income isn’t just bending the rules, it’s breaking the law. Hopefully it will also send a warning to any other public servants who may share Taylor’s views. Any expense claims based on an arrogant belief that those “serving” the public are entitled to top-ups at the taxpayers’ expense aren’t justified. It’s not their money, it’s taxpayers’ money and Taylor’s defence didn’t stack up in the eyes of the law.

Despite being found guilty Lord Taylor will remain a member of the Lords, able to continue sitting and voting in the future. Under the rules an Act of Parliament is needed to remove a Lord, last used for treason in 1917. And although peers can apply for a leave of absence they are not able to resign.

We’ll see how the public feel about the prospect of a convicted Lord continuing to sit, despite dishonestly siphoning off taxpayers’ money.

He will have lost a great deal already from the conviction; his hard-earned reputation is in tatters. But another question will remain, is taking taxpayers’ money modern day treason? It’s clearly a crime and a huge betrayal of trust, but it would be hard for taxpayers to take if he were allowed to continue sitting and setting the rules by which we all have to live.

Click here to see the response from Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TPALord Taylor of Warwick woke up this morning knowing that his days as a free man could be numbered. Yesterday a jury found him guilty of fraudulently claiming expenses. The former peer had been on trial since Monday 17th of January over the personal expense claims he made totalling more than £11,000. He was said to be “devastated” at the result and as a qualified barrister he’ll be aware that he faces a possible four year jail sentence. He could be swapping his gown for a prison uniform.

Lord Taylor had pleaded innocent but did admit to giving false information. The 58 year old claimed that he was living in Oxford when he was actually in Ealing in London, so the prosecution managed to show that the expenses he claimed to travel from Oxford to London and overnight costs were dishonest. We mentioned this last week when his half nephew, who does live in the house, was giving evidence.

The prosecution summed up the case saying:

"Those were journeys that didn't happen from a home that wasn't his. Lord 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."

Lord Taylor had pleaded innocent. During the trial Lord Taylor tried to back up his plea by claiming another peer had told him he would be "crazy" not to claim the maximum allowances.  Lord Colwyn denied saying this when questioned by the court. Lord Taylor also said there was ambiguity over the rules, that they were a “quirk” of the House of Lords. The defence claimed that it was seen as acceptable to take expenses in lieu of salary, that this practice was “commonplace”. The jury was unconvinced and took just five hours to return with an 11 - 1 majority finding that Lord Taylor was guilty of all six charges. The taxpayers he cheated will now have to wait to hear what his sentence will be. Lord Taylor is free on unconditional bail until then.

The previous expenses system was based on trust and not evidence; expenses wouldn’t have been checked for authenticity, rather the honesty of the Lords was relied on. Lords were trusted to behave responsibly with taxpayers’ money. This conviction shows that at least one of them abused that trust; it sends a clear message that falsifying records to obtain extra income isn’t just bending the rules, it’s breaking the law. Hopefully it will also send a warning to any other public servants who may share Taylor’s views. Any expense claims based on an arrogant belief that those “serving” the public are entitled to top-ups at the taxpayers’ expense aren’t justified. It’s not their money, it’s taxpayers’ money and Taylor’s defence didn’t stack up in the eyes of the law.

Despite being found guilty Lord Taylor will remain a member of the Lords, able to continue sitting and voting in the future. Under the rules an Act of Parliament is needed to remove a Lord, last used for treason in 1917. And although peers can apply for a leave of absence they are not able to resign.

We’ll see how the public feel about the prospect of a convicted Lord continuing to sit, despite dishonestly siphoning off taxpayers’ money.

He will have lost a great deal already from the conviction; his hard-earned reputation is in tatters. But another question will remain, is taking taxpayers’ money modern day treason? It’s clearly a crime and a huge betrayal of trust, but it would be hard for taxpayers to take if he were allowed to continue sitting and setting the rules by which we all have to live.

Click here to see the response from Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TPA

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