R v Chaytor (2010) UKSC 52 was a landmark legal case decided by the UK Supreme Court in 2010. This case is commonly known as the Chaytor case and is related to the prosecution of three former Members of Parliament for false accounting in connection with the 2009 Parliamentary expenses scandal.
In the aftermath of the 2009 expenses scandal in the UK Parliament, three former MPs, David Chaytor, Elliot Morley, and Jim Devine, were accused of making fraudulent claims for parliamentary expenses. These claims included expenses for mortgage interest payments, rent, and other costs they were not entitled to receive.
During their trials, each of the accused MPs separately argued that they should not face criminal charges because their actions were covered by the doctrine of Parliamentary privilege. They contended that their expense claims were part of the internal workings of Parliament and could not be the basis for criminal charges due to the protections afforded by Parliamentary privilege.
The UK Supreme Court, comprised of nine judges, unanimously rejected the argument that parliamentary privilege shielded the defendants from criminal prosecution. The Court held that parliamentary privilege did not extend to protect Members of Parliament from criminal charges for actions which were criminal offences under the law. The actions in question, involving fraudulent expense claims, were not integral to the proper functioning of Parliament and were, therefore, subject to the jurisdiction of regular criminal courts.
The Chaytor case, along with the broader expenses scandal, had significant repercussions in British politics and highlighted the importance of accountability and transparency in public office. It also clarified the limitations of parliamentary privilege when it comes to criminal prosecution for actions related to parliamentary duties.
You can learn more about this topic with our Public Law notes.