Tory peer apologises for 'interfering' in Charlie Elphicke case

Lord Freud, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions addresses

Lord Freud at the Annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham - Credit: PA

Tory peer Lord Freud has agreed to apologise after being found to have breached the Code of Conduct by seeking to interfere in a legal decision.

The Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, found there was “an inherent dishonour in Lord Freud choosing to leverage his position as a parliamentarian to seek to influence the trial judge by writing in private to two other senior judges, and in acting carelessly by failing even to consider the constitutional propriety of him doing so”.

Lord Freud, along with a number of MPs, wrote to Lady Justice Thirlwall and Dame Victoria Sharp, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, asking them to consider issues raised by the potential release of character references provided about former MP Charlie Elphicke, who was convicted for sexually assaulting women.

The commissioner found Lord Freud “readily admitted that being a signatory to the letters was a mistake and one which he now regrets”.

She said making a personal statement to the House of Lords would be an appropriate outcome and Lord Freud had agreed to do so.

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The group of politicians wrote to the two senior judges expressing concern that the judge who heard Elphicke’s case was considering releasing character references provided for the ex-Tory MP following requests from the media.

The parliamentarians claimed members of the public who had provided references “report that they have been put into fear and some have suffered serious anxiety and mental harm at the prospect of being identified by Mrs Justice Whipple”.

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Tory peer Lord Freud has apologised in the House of Lords.

Making a personal statement at the start of the day’s proceedings, the former minister said: “Today the commissioner for standards has published a report into my conduct.

“The report relates to letters to which I was a signatory, to members of the judiciary about references provided to the court to inform sentencing of Mr Elphicke.

“My motive was purely to alert the judiciary to what I considered an important issue of principle.

“However, I recognise it was not my place to do so and should not have added my name to the latter. I apologise to the House and the judiciary.”

Elphicke was sentenced to nearly two years in prison in September for three counts of sexual assault against two women.

He stood down as MP for Dover in 2019.

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