In the Media

Margaret Moran fiddled ?53,000 in expenses, but will not go to jail

PUBLISHED November 13, 2012

Moran's false expenses claims are the largest amount uncovered in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal. The former Labour minister Elliot Morley was jailed last year for dishonestly claiming more than £30,000 in parliamentary expenses.

Moran, 57, will not have a criminal record, however, as she was deemed unfit to stand trial because of depression and so the jury could not find her guilty of any crime.

Instead, the jury at Southwark Crown Court found that she had done the acts alleged, which included forging invoices for more than £24,000 of non-existent goods and services.

She was arrested in 2010 after a former aide contacted police following The Daily Telegraph's exposure of her expense claims during the MPs' expenses investigation in 2009.

Moran, who served as MP for Luton South from 1997 until the 2010 General Election, was found culpable for 15 instances of false accounting and six instances of using a false instrument between 2004 and 2008.

Mr Justice Saunders adjourned the disposal of the case to a later date after the jury reached a unanimous verdict on all counts.

Moran may be subject to a supervision order, a hospital order or absolute discharge, where no further action is taken against her, the judge said.

"She is presently being treated by psychiatrists at home and that treatment will continue," he added.

Her barrister, Jim Sturman QC, argued for an absolute discharge, saying: "This is a woman who has had a genuine total collapse of her mental state."

The judge said his preferred option was a supervision order, adding that a hospital order could not be made because it required two doctors to say hospital treatment was needed and "we do not have those two doctors".

The court heard Moran submitted an invoice for £22,500 in August 2008 - just under the annual maximum expense allowance for an MP - to treat dry rot at her Southampton home, using the money instead to fund "home improvements".

She was able to make the dry rot claim by "flipping" her two homes - changing which property was her second home and therefore allowing her to claim expenses on it.

Moran also changed dates on invoices for the work so that the money would be paid.

One invoice in August 2007 was for £14,805 - apparently for boiler repairs and work on her conservatory in her constituency home in Luton, but it was a complete forgery, the court heard.

On another fake bill for more than £4,000, address details given for a building firm were those of an elderly couple.

She also claimed more than £2,000 for a landline at her flat when there was no phone line fitted, the jury heard, and for carpet for three bedrooms for her one-bedroom Westminster flat.

Moran, of Ivy Road, St Denys, Southampton, was not present for the three-day hearing.

Mr Sturman said the case represented "a very, very unhappy period for British democracy". He added: "It is the last of the Parliamentary expenses scandal cases. You will be bringing them to an end."

Moran "abused the scheme", prosecutors said, going as far as to re-submit expenses claims with different descriptions and supportive invoices if they were initially rejected by parliamentary authorities.

She tried to claim £47 for printing 50 Christmas cards, but was told that greetings cards were not covered by parliamentary expenses, the court heard.

So she submitted a new invoice for the same amount, but this time for "printing services", jurors were told.

The same thing happened with a claim for birthday cards, which were later described as "surgery cards".

Moran submitted a claim for £22,500 for urgent works for dry rot at her Southampton home in August 2008.

Jurors heard, however, that a builder completed the work between September 2007 and March 2008 before the property became Moran's designated second home in October 2008.

The court's findings follow guilty verdicts in the cases of the MPs Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Eric Illsley and Jim Devine, and in the cases of Lord Warwick and Lord Hanningfield, all of whom were jailed for fiddling their expenses.