A Pernicious Prosecution
Conviction – or Corruption?
“It is essential that independent men question those in power”
– Adlai Stevenson, US Ambassador to the UN
By Ashley Mote
(Member of the European Parliament 2004-09)
(My CV is at the end of this report)
While the English legal system is held in high regard by many people, and almost all of the legal profession (who earn their livings from it) it looks completely different from the inside, especially when you have been through its mincer, accused of a crime.
If I had been asked to read this document a few years ago I would not have believed it. Now I know such things can – and do - happen under the British criminal justice system.
These are just some of the English legal system’s inescapable shortcomings:
- Most important of all, it subscribes to the highly selective use of language which Humpty Dumpy described to Alice: ‘Words mean what I choose them to mean – neither more nor less’. Never more important than when the state is deciding which criminal charges to bring.
- The more money you have available the better your chances of a fair trial. There is a direct and irrefutable correlation between the two. The same applies to appeals.
- Criminal cases fought by counsel funded by legal aid have no choice but to minimise the time spent researching the defence case and seeking evidence.
- A parliamentary justice select committee described the current situation as “fundamentally unfair” to the defence. The prospects for legally-aided defendants are seriously damaged – despite the claim that English law is scrupulously fair and balanced. Today it is no such thing.
- Defence teams funded privately, by or for the defendant, have no limitations on time spent researching their defence case.
- The Department of Public Prosecutions refuses to reveal the success rate of defence teams on legal aid – which rather suggests there is a failure rate they want to hide.
- “The criminal justice system is close to breaking point” – Parliamentary Report, May 2016.
- Leading counsel: “I won because I told a better story”
- The essential thrust of English court proceedings is argument and confrontation – not seeking the facts and reaching a just conclusion. Furthermore, the prosecution always leads and inevitably has the defence on the back foot from the start. “Does pitting the state against the accused in a winner-takes-all war of attrition do more harm than good?” – Secret Barrister 2018.
- The jury is not made up of your peers - merely the last 12 people off the street.
Now add in the performance of the CPS (Criminal Prosecution Service) after Alison Saunders took over as Director of Public Prosecutions in 2013. Over the next five years the CPS became a by-word for administrative chaos. The respected political commentator Charles Moore described her five years as “disastrous”. It is now known that almost half the people prosecuted over those five years suffered from their defence counsels not having all the relevant papers for their defence – they had been withheld by the CPS.
All of which leaves an inescapable smell of corruption or incompetence (or both) and underlines the calculated deviousness of the legal processes behind the scenes when my trial was fast-forwarded by many months to April 2015. My lawyers had told me the trial would take place at least 18 months later, such was the pressure of cases awaiting trial.
I had good reason to tell them they were wrong. They did not believe me. But my cynicism was quickly justified. With a general election due in May my trial date was fast forwarded to ensure UKIP’s reputation received maximum damage from press coverage of the evidence offered by the prosecution. As we shall see later the judge ensured defence evidence came out when its impact on the election result would be minimal or non-existent.
But first, a word of clarification and explanation. Who am I?
I was elected to the European Parliament as a UKIP candidate for South-East England in 2004, for a fixed term of five years. I left UKIP almost at once (having fallen out with party leader) and sat throughout my five years as an independent (Unattached) Member (MEP). As a euro-sceptic and informed cynic my objectives remained the same - to see the UK restore its constitutional powers of self-government and meanwhile to hold the European Union to account.
Within weeks of the first parliamentary term I had engaged the help of the former (and only qualified) chief accountant to the European Commission, Marta Andreasen, who had been permanently suspended after only a few months in the job. She asked too many awkward questions of senior bureaucrats. In addition, Christopher Arkell, a leading UK-based forensic accountant had offered his services, which I readily accepted. Neither accepted payment beyond expenses.
At the end of my five-year term I wrote my memoirs based entirely on my contemporary diaries. A Mote in Brussels’ Eye focused on the financial corruption I had unearthed at the very top of the EU’s bureaucratic elite, otherwise known as the European Commission.
After publication of my memoirs in January 2013 the EU obviously had no answer to my well-documented proof of the Commission’s apparently never-ending misuse of tax-payers funds. Vengeance against the author was the only response left open to them.
The resulting prosecution was willfully malicious. It was also unjustified and wrong. Further, it was stage-managed to pervert the course of justice, as we shall see.
My entire term of office was dominated by my investigations and the consequences. I put down over 400 written questions to the Head of the European Commission during my five years, relating to the use of public funds and equally serious matters dealing with, for example, the nature and purpose of the EU’s Global Security Fund (the very existence of which was initially denied), the porous nature of border controls along the length of the EU’s Eastern borders, the EU’s blatant funding of Hamas (then a proscribed illegal organisation) and much, much more.
Perhaps the most monstrous and blatant mischief we uncovered concerned the EU’s financing of illegal exports of raw uranium from a (former Belgian) Congolese mine to Iran (then also a proscribed organisation). This latter mischief directly linked the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Fund, and the Directorate responsible for day-to-day management, to the mine and to Iran. More specifically, the then European Commissioner responsible for the Humanitarian Aid Fund at the time was a Belgian: Louis Michel. We uncovered evidence he had family connections to the management of the mine itself, but were unable to establish precisely who was involved and what the relationship was.
I therefore decided to approach The Sunday Times with the evidence we had so far. It included bills of lading, numerous invoices and key shipping documents. The newspaper ran a ‘trail’ piece saying the full story would appear the following week. It did not. Thereafter no national newspaper would touch the story. Was a ‘D notice’ slapped on the editor during that intervening week? (A ‘D notice’ is the government’s means of preventing publication on the grounds of national security.)
Over my five years as an MEP our collective researches accumulated huge quantities of evidence on all manner of issues which justified my questions to the Commission and my many scores of speeches in the Parliament itself and on the three committees on which I sat regularly – Budget Control, Constitutional Affairs and Transport. All my speeches and written questions are on the public record.
The EU Investigates Me
Early in my time in the European Parliament the senior management of OLAF attended a meeting of the Budget Control committee, on which I sat. OLAF’s role was to investigate financial impropriety within the European Commission. OLAF’s Director, Dr Brunner (a German lawyer) led the delegation. I took an early opportunity to question OLAF’s apparent lack of investigative vigour and its paucity of successful prosecutions. Dr Brunner immediately replied: “We don’t snoop on our friends”. That meeting, and those words, will still be on the public record in Brussels – or they should be! I did not let Dr Brunner ever forget them.
Much later in my term I sent Dr Brunner a list of 50 specific questions about EU fraud and OLAF’s role – or lack of it. In reply I received a seriously threatening letter from Brunner’s eventual successor which was clearly intended to shut me up. It did not.
However, it became clear later that OLAF had started investigating my activities towards the end of my parliamentary term and continued to collect information and data about my research work.
But I was not alone. Many other anti-EU MEPs were threatened and investigated by OLAF over the years. The risk was part of the job, and we sometimes joked about it. But I was never directly challenged, despite regularly causing OLAF grief. After all, I had nothing to hide beyond the names of my many whistle-blowers. No problem!
However, publication of my memoirs A Mote in Brussels’ Eye in 2013 changed everything. OLAF’s files on me must have formed part of the brief given to the British government after publication.
An Unlawful Police Raid
My memoirs were published in January 2013, just over three years after I had left the European Parliament. Without doubt it was the biggest and most thorough book about EU corruption ever published at the time. It was available as an eBook and demand for it was immediate.
But barely five weeks later, in early March, nine policemen arrived at my front door, unannounced and unexpected, with a search warrant to ransack my home. The warrant had been signed by an unknown hand, the signature was indecipherable and the senior officer present either could not, or would not, identify the signature, or the authority. I later made a formal complaint to the newly appointed Hampshire Police Commissioner, who refused to get involved.
It was not difficult to research the illegality of what happened that day.
In 1765 (Entick v Carrington) the courts ruled that seizure of papers from a publisher was an exercise in ‘arbitrary power’ and a breach of Magna Carta. That ruling was – in some respects - the foundation of British freedom of speech, certainly in matters relating to the press. Magna Carta predates Parliament by more than half a century. It was a contract directly between the Monarch and the people. Parliament cannot interfere with it. Nor can the EU or Hampshire Constabulary.
I am a professional author and have become a self-publisher, at least with some of my books. So seizure of my papers under a search warrant of any authority, let alone a questionable one, in 2013 was unlawful.
Furthermore, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 “entry to the premises will not be granted unless a...warrant is produced or that a search may be frustrated if immediate access is not gained.” What shred of evidence did the police have that my wife and I (aged 77 and 67 at the time) would obstruct the entry of nine younger, bigger and stronger men when they all arrived together on our doorstep?
The law further requires that the occupant must see the whole document. Yet the warrant was merely waved in front of me, admittedly enough to see that the signature on it was indecipherable. It was a squiggle. No name underneath identified the individual, nor his status.
A Freedom of Information request to the Hampshire Chief Constable asking for the name and status of the signatory, and the grounds on which the warrant was issued, was initially ignored and, later, rejected.
Further pressure and exchanges with the police finally squeezed out some information, all of which clearly demonstrated that the ‘Joint Information Management Unit’ of Hampshire Constabulary was prepared to tell barefaced lies when it suited them. Initially I was told “Hampshire Constabulary does not hold this information” when asked for the cost of their enquiries on behalf of the European Union. Furthermore, “disclosure would undermine the partnership approach to law enforcement” – whatever that was supposed to mean.
After the intervention of my local MP, then a junior minister at the Treasury, and a series of specific questions from me, Hampshire constabulary finally admitted that £8972.45 had been spent on the direct cost of trips to the EU – but that did not include the hourly costs of the officers and staff involved. The number of days and hours worked by the officers and staff on these trips was not to be released. Instead I was merely told that no overtime had been worked by anyone at any time during these investigations. By such a selective release of data – all of which was impossible to check – Hampshire Constabulary ensured that I could not calculate the cost of their investigations for myself.
My enquires had effectively been blocked, but the letter of the law observed.
But I already knew from other sources that Hampshire constabulary had visited Brussels several times, Tallinn in Estonia, and Copenhagen, at least once each. It was obvious that a substantial six-figure sum of British tax-payers’ money had been mis-used once all the costs were included.
Hampshire Constabulary was obviously terrified of admitting the true cost of their enquiries into my work in the EU as a sitting MEP properly elected by the electorate of SE England – not least since the very idea of the police investigating the activities of an elected parliamentarian raises huge, constitutional and ethical issues far above the paygrade of a Chief Constable.
For the record, the search of our home yielded nothing of any consequence whatsoever – as demonstrated by the numerous copies returned to me immediately afterwards
EU’s Management Style
Meanwhile, the level of institutionalised corruption in Brussels went on unabated. Court of Auditors annual reports routinely report several hundred million euro’s-worth of tax-payers’ money had been lost to fraud. “Affected by material error” was the way the Court of Auditors chose to put it. These reports freely admitted the worst countries known to OLAF for the mis-appropriation of public funds were (and probably still are) all in Eastern Europe – Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria in particular.
(For the record, a senior member of the Court of Auditors with previous experience of auditing and public accounting, freely admitted that the governments of Bulgaria and Romania, in particular, simply did not have the resources, knowledge or experience to cope with the financial and administrative essentials required when those two countries were allowed to join the EU in 2007.)
EU or UK LAW?
The EU’s relationship with member states required that OLAF brief the British government, who in turn briefed Hampshire police.
There is a clear distinction between the law in England and what passes for EU law. They are not the same at all. Most importantly, English law is based on common law and precedence. EU law is based on the rigid Napoleonic code. Under the various treaties which set up what is now the EU it is EU law that prevails if/when there is a conflict between the two legal systems.
During my time in the European Parliament (2004-09), an MEP’s allowances were available at his discretion. The bureaucrats who managed Parliamentary administration had no powers to check or control their use – and rightly so. Under EU law (and ‘regulations’, which have the same authority) the EU had no power to stop us.
Thus, under the then regulations governing the use by MEPs of their allowances we were free to explore fully any lines of enquiry we liked. Indeed, that was the very purpose of the allowances!
Furthermore, any surplus cash accumulated by MEPs from the gross over-payment of fixed expenses (travel, hotels, etc) was available to be used as we chose – exactly as we used our taxed income.
So English law was not relevant to the use of allowances by UK MEPs. Or was it? As with everything else in the EU, the situation was open to ‘interpretation’ by the bureaucrats, especially when it suited their purposes. And it clearly suited their purposes when they sought a means to damage me after publication of my book.
Early in discussions between OLAF and the British government an inescapable and crucial question would have been raised. And it would have needed a clear legal answer: Can what is lawful in Brussels be unlawful under English law, despite the fact that EU law takes precedence? Of course the answer should have been ‘No’, especially given that my allowances were used entirely within the rest of the EU. As a UK MEP I had no reason whatever to check the activities of politicians in the UK!
That question – and the blatantly unlawful answer ‘Yes’- must have emerged quite early in these meetings. And there is some evidence to suggest not everyone was happy with such a contrived answer. It took another two years before the prosecution was satisfied it could blur the difference between the two jurisdictions sufficient to win a conviction.
The EU’s Objectives
The EU wanted to achieve two ends:
It wanted the names of the many whistle-blowers from within the Brussels system who had volunteered their help and information once they learned of my objective to hold the EU’s bureaucracy to account. These were mostly middle-ranking career officials, members of staff who were also decent people, horrified at what they had seen and heard from the activities of their bosses. They were appalled at the widespread corruption and gross misuse of taxpayers’ money which was not just tolerated by the most senior bureaucrats in Brussels, but controlled by many of them. They all had my word that I would never reveal the names of my sources.
2. A conviction for fraud (the misuse of my allowances) would at least discredit the messenger, even if the EU had no answer to the message.
This stratagem was decisively successful. The EU’s bureaucrats and legal team needed only to ignore the fact that the crimes I was alleged to have committed in the EU were not crimes at all.
UK Law Invoked and Timed Precisely
Almost two years later, in April 2015, I was arraigned on a series of alleged offences which, collectively, claimed that I had misused my allowances and expenses as an MEP. My legal team assured me that a trial was probable, but definitely not before 2016 or even 2017– such were the delays in the criminal justice system and the time it took before cases actually came to court.
I told my lawyers they were wrong. The trial would start, I said, in May 2015, just before the General Election. They were astounded when I was proved right. The British government clearly saw my case as a means of damaging the UKIP vote at the election, especially as all the prosecution’s claims and allegations would be heard in court first. They were bound to make headline news during the election campaign if the trial started, say, two weeks before polling day. And that was exactly what happened.
From the EU’s point of view my very public prosecution was the best possible rebuttal of the accusations of institutionalised corruption set out in my book, particularly given that by the time of the trial it was being widely read both in the UK and across the EU.
At least to their satisfaction, the EU and OLAF had achieved their objective of discrediting the author of one of the most damaging books on EU corruption ever written. Furthermore, when the judge passed sentence in July 2015, he delivered a lengthy character assassination (which left me wondering who on earth he was talking about). It was obviously intended to gain wide publicity not only in the UK but right across the European Union. To that extent he would doubtless have been satisfied.
But neither the verdicts nor his sentencing remarks changed any of the facts, nor the evidence detailed in my book.
To this day they stand – untouched and undisputed.
Abuse of Process
Under the EU’s own treaties, it is obliged to use the laws of member states to pursue what it perceives as its own legal best interests. This can produce contradictory legal and judicial decisions, depending entirely on the laws – or lack of them – in various legal jurisdictions within the EU. Worse, the top bureaucrats within the EU ignore this state of affairs, have no powers to change it, but exploit the contradictions whenever and wherever it suits them.
The differences between the UK and EU legal systems should have represented an entirely proper and massive legal obstacle, as I have already indicated. The bureaucrats in London and Brussels chose to use EU law – which took precedence over UK law anyway. After that it was easy to manipulate court procedures and, with the help of an amenable judge, to obstruct the introduction of all the relevant defence evidence. A fair trial became impossible.
Not only did the prosecution act in bad faith but they did so under the direction of judicial forces further up the food chain. Those forces were driven by the European Commission, using the British legal system to enforce a verdict which protected the essential interests of the EU.
The mischief started from the very beginning.
When I arrived in Brussels as a newly elected MEP in 2004 I had no track record in politics, European or British, beyond several speeches, two small books which attempted to provide a simple guide to the EU, and an unfinished video. My status changed dramatically within weeks. The trigger was my invitation to Marta Andreasen, the former Chief Accountant to the European Commission – and the only qualified accountant ever to hold the job – who had been indefinitely suspended for asking too many of the wrong questions. Who better to ask help hold the European Commission to account? Within days a steady stream of middle-ranking members of the Commission’s staff started to knock on my door, offering help, advice and information. Bureaucrats perhaps, but they were honourable men and women who knew what was going on and also knew it was profoundly wrong.
They wanted the EU’s endemic and systematic corruption exposed and stopped. Marta’s presence on my team provided the comfort blanket they needed if they were to spill the beans. A steady stream of raw data continued to flow into my office throughout my five years. Virtually all of it had subsequently to be checked, developed and verified before I could put down a written question to the Commission or raise an issue in committee or plenary session. Early on, one of them coined the phrase “institutionalised corruption”. It was never bettered.
All this scrutiny took a great deal of time – and money - and had to be conducted in the utmost confidence. Every whistle-blower had my personal word that his/her identity was safe with me – a promise I kept to the full, despite the ultimate consequences. They had exposed themselves to great personal risk. I could do no less.
The equation was, and is, clear. Whistle-blowers will not come forward if their anonymity is not assured. Marta was a different case as she had already been suspended for being a nosy-parker. All the others who fed me information were still working for the Commission.
Both then, and now, there was no defence “in the public interest”. Later, the head of the UK’s Criminal Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, made public his view that such a defence should be available to whistle-blowers - but it wasn’t then and still isn’t now.
All of which underlines the endless subterfuges I and others were obliged to use to cover the financial tracks we employed. Little wonder the EU and British government seized on such financial manouvring to build a case against me. Furthermore, almost by definition I could offer no defence, and they knew it. My only defence was to name names, and that was off-limits.
With hindsight it is possible my defence could – and should - have made a great deal of the whistle-blower issue, and my refusal to name them. That, after all, was crucial to my defence. Whistle-blowers were the source of much of the detail in A Mote in Brussels’ Eye. The whistle-blower issue could - and should – have dominated the whole trial. Perhaps Marta Andreasen might not have been willing to appear for the defence since – under oath - the EU would have used the opportunity to question her ruthlessly on her own investigations, while trying to damage her credibility.
Evidence Delivered - And Ignored
Three boxes of the most sensitive and important evidence we collected about EU corruption and the mis-use of British tax-payers’ funds were passed on to the British authorities who might reasonably have been expected to take a serious interest in the contents. Much of this material concerned the EU’s systematic and endemic misuse of public funds, a significant proportion of which had come from British taxpayers. On two occasions a box of these documents - some of which had previously been denied, or declared not to exist – were delivered directly into the hands of the Head of the Serious Fraud Squad in London. A third box was hand-delivered to New Scotland Yard since it contained material with criminal implications. All three boxes were totally ignored by the SFO and New Scotland Yard. Nothing happened.
Some time later I met the head of the SFO and asked for the boxes back. He opened them in my presence. It was immediately obvious the papers were still in exactly the same order as the day they were delivered. They had never so much as been rummaged through. As for examining them,…no chance. No doubt after consultation with various other potentially interested government departments, and with each other, a policy decision had been taken to ignore my boxes of evidence of corruption at the top of the EU. Least said, soonest mended! Nobody at the top of the British government wanted waves made about our relationship with, or membership of, the EU.
Facts – Manipulation – and Consequences
The UK prosecution’s calculated decision to ignore the EU’s own laws on the use of MEPs’ allowances and expenses meant they could consider all my expenditure as potentially fraudulent.
I was a sitting duck.
This technique of switching jurisdictions was used again successfully years later when the British judicial system disbarred the solicitor who advised me when the EU first tried to get me thrown out of the European Parliament. But more on that later.
In the end I was convicted on several counts based on allegations of fraud and related offences allegedly committed in the EU. The exact number of counts, and therefore the validity of the verdicts, is further open to serious doubt, following revelations admitted by the prosecution after the trial. More on that later as well.
As I have already indicated, both the content and timing of the evidence presented at the trial was ruthlessly focussed on damaging the UKIP vote during the peak electioneering period immediately before the General Election on Thursday 7 May 2015. At the same time it was also intended to destroy my reputation as an investigative author.
The one good outcome of the trial was that the EU was powerfully reminded that shooting the messenger tends to reinforce the message. Sales of A Mote in Brussels’ Eye shot up on both sides of the channel. More people than ever now knew just how irredeemably corrupt the EU’s powerful bureaucracy was and understood the impossibility of reform. The case for what became Brexit had taken a big step forward. The EU had fired the only weapon at their disposal, but the result had been to increase awareness of their unscrupulous racketeering.
On the other hand, the inevitable consequence of war is casualties. I was at war with the EU. My trial was a form of revenge for the damage I had inflicted on them, their lack of credibility and their now demonstrable unsuitability to govern. After the verdicts (on which more later) a custodial sentence was inevitable. But the English legal system was also told to seize all my assets to meet the specious and wholly contrived financial compensation demanded by the EU, supposedly now acting as the injured party.
The biggest casualty was my wife – an entirely innocent party. The most steadfastly honest and honourable person I have ever known. As a result of my conviction, and through absolutely no fault of her own whatsoever, she lost her home and half our collective assets.
An Arraignment – Re-arraignments – and Confusion
I was never arrested and charged under caution. The first I knew about a prosecution was when I received a “Written Charge and Requisition” which listed nine charges. I was to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 3 November 2014. When I arrived at court I was arraigned on the nine charges, all of which were alleged to have occurred during my time as an MEP, more than five years previously. The allegations included misconduct in public office, acquiring criminal property, deception and false accounting. Three of the charges were alternatives. All nine were read to me in full and I pleaded not guilty. I was immediately bailed, to appear before a Crown Court at a date to be set.
The trial started at Southwark Crown Court on Monday 20 April 2015, scheduled to last four weeks.
Five days before the trial started I was allegedly re-arraigned. A letter from Southwark Crown Court written over a year later (dated 22 July 2016 to be precise), signed by T Conlan, administrative officer, states that I was arraigned on a new and totally different set of 13 charges on 15 April 2015. That is untrue. I was not arraigned – or charged – on that day. I was not even in London on that particular day. Where and exactly when such an event is alleged to have occurred is in serious doubt. I was certainly not present.
Unlike the original charges, which were mainly under the Theft Act, these new charges were under the Fraud Act, one of Forgery and two under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The fact that they were fundamentally different in law from the original charges was not explained at the time, or since.
However, many months later I became aware that prosecution lawyers much prefer to use the Fraud Act 2006 rather than the Theft Act 1968 because the Fraud Act removes many lines of defence argument, including ‘justification’. Specifically, my defence was that I was doing the job I was elected to do, using my allowances and expenses for the purpose intended by the EU’s own regulations. But that was no defence at all under the Fraud Act, although it would have been accepted under the Theft Act. Whether the jury would have been up to such subtleties is quite another matter.
However, worse was to come. I learned long after the trial that, on 6 May 2015 (three weeks into the trial), an indictment of 11 new and different charges was produced. Crucially I was never arraigned on them – nor charged with them. Their very existence only came to light after the trial, many months later.
This further confusion came to light in July 2016 when I was sent, apparently in error, a copy of the Court Log (PNC record). This shows that, during the third week of the four-week trial (on 6 May 2015, the day before the General Election to be precise) the charges against me were changed again. There were now 11 new and different charges – eight under the Theft Act, two under the Fraud Act, and two under the Proceeds of Crime Act. One charge was now numbered 1a, without explanation.
A crucial question arises: what – if anything – was the status of those new charges? And since they were never put to me I was never given the opportunity to respond – as the law demands.
Nonetheless, I discovered after the trial had concluded that the jury had found me guilty of the 11 new charges I knew nothing about. Whether they had been briefed on the new charges, or knew that I was unaware of them, remains unknown. Despite the Court Log (PNC record) showing them dated 6 May 2015, I confirm (again) those charges were never put to me in court or anywhere else. The trial was into its third week. I have no memory of any such event which – in the circumstances – might just have caught my undivided attention!
The implications and potential consequences of this situation are huge – possibly catastrophic from a legal point of view. Any new charges surely have the immediate effect of negating any previous charges.
It therefore appears that two unlawful scenarios formed the basis of the legal processes in court between 6 May 2015 and the end of the trial on the 15th:
a) The jury and I believed that the charges put to me on 3 November 2014 (or possible the new charges which were allegedly put to me five days before the start of the trial on 20 April 2015) were the basis for the arguments during the trial and the verdicts at the end;
b) A new set of charges dated 6 May 2015 were being used by the judge, prosecution and defence lawyers without my knowing, nor having been arraigned, nor having entered any plea in defence.
Both sets of circumstances appear to be mutually exclusive, with each rendering the other invalid, if not actually unlawful.
Several crucial questions arise.
i) Given these circumstances, was the trial itself rendered unlawful?
ii) Given the highly questionable arraignment procedures before and during those four weeks, some of which would appear to have been wilfully hidden from me, and possibly the jury, should the trial have been stopped?
iii) Should the entire process and outcome now be quashed?
After the trial my attention was drawn to the fact that the judge – Jeremy Stuart-Smith – must have known of me. Indeed we might well have socialised together - and with others – on numerous occasions. We were both playing members of The Cricket Society, but at different times. However, I was a particularly high-profile member, not least as a broadcaster and commentator on the game.
Specifically, I was also well-known as the winner of the Society’s ‘Cricket Book of the Year’ award for my history of the evolution of the modern game The Glory Days of Cricket. As a result I was invited to address many regional and national meetings of the Society – and other cricket-related associations, including county clubs. Always after such talks members of the audience engage the speaker in conversation during drinks afterwards. So it is entirely possible Mr Stuart-Smith attended one of my talks. He would have known me but I not him.
Equally it is entirely possible Mr Stuart-Smith did not attend any of them. But it is inconceivable that – as an active player and supporter - he was unaware of me and my place in the history of the game. Apart from any other possible source he would have read of me in the Cricket Society’s quarterly journal in which my name frequently appeared.
Therefore we could, and possibly did, meet socially and he most certainly would have known who I was. My unusual name would have seen to that.
Despite all of which Mr Stuart-Smith made no reference to these facts in court and – at the time – I was unaware of the connections. So I and my legal team were deprived of the opportunity to raise them and question his suitability to preside.
Quite why Mr Stuart-Smith was given the job of presiding over my trial was – and remains – a mystery, given his background. But years later it became apparent why Mr Stuart-Smith was given the job. Criminal trials were not his field. He specialised in hearing cases involving insurance contracts, the law of tort (causing civil harm), and resolving technical legal disputes, all of which is about as far away from EU and UK criminal law as you could get. But, as we have already seen, he made some extraordinary rulings during the trial which doubtless helped the jury reach the ‘correct’ verdict. He had been parachuted in as a safe pair of hands.
Opening his sentencing remarks on 13 July 2015 the judge referred to my being found guilty “on all 12 counts on the indictment”. That statement was wrong. It was either nine (before the trial), 11 (allegedly at the start of the trial) or 13 (at the end of the trial). But it was never 12.
Much of the rest of his 4000+ word diatribe lambasted at me in the dock described another person altogether. It was a blatant attempt at character assassination. At one point I found myself looking around to see who he was talking about – but there was no-one else there.
His purpose was crystal clear. What he said was not really intended for my ears. It was aimed firmly at the media across the European Union – and the pro-EU media in the UK of course. No doubt, in his terms, he scored a bullseye.
The convictions themselves, and Mr Stuart-Smith’s vicious sentencing remarks, must have left the Commissioners in Brussels feeling well satisfied. They might not have been able to destroy my book about the EU’s institutionalised corruption, but at least the credibility of the author had been severely damaged – if not destroyed. But, as we have seen already, that expected bonus for the EU was spectacularly unsuccessful. Sales of my book shot up on both sides of the channel. More people than ever now knew in detail of the irredeemable corruption of the EU.
Within a year or so Mr Stuart-Smith was appointed to the High Court and rewarded with a knighthood. He also stopped playing for the Cricket Society. On the other hand, what his behaviour did for the credibility of the British criminal justice system is something else again.
A Trial Driven by Politics
Four issues at my trial arose directly from the politics involved:
a) Having been elected to the European Parliament on an anti-EU ticket in 2004 I used my professional skills as an investigative journalist to hold the European Commission to account. I quickly found that the former chief accountant of the Commission, Marta Andreasen, was only too willing to join me. She was the only qualified accountant ever to get the job, and had been suspended after only a few months – for asking too many difficult questions in high places. Suspended on full pay, she was now stuck in a jobless limbo, unable to seek unemployment elsewhere.
She agreed to advise me on what has already been described as embedded institutionalised corruption. We were quickly joined by one of the UK’s top forensic accountants, who volunteered his services. Both would only accept expenses.
As already mentioned, within months we had enough well-documented material to take a box-full of indisputable evidence of EU corruption in high places to the Serious Fraud Office in London. Some two years later another box-full of further evidence was delivered to the SFO. As I discovered much later, neither was so much as read through. The material was undisturbed. On a third occasion another box of evidence of EU corruption – this one with direct connections to the UK government - was delivered to New Scotland Yard. Again, no action whatsoever followed.
When my trial defence was being prepared my legal team told me we could not call the head of the SFO (successively Messrs Green and Alderman), or Assistant Commissioner Yates of New Scotland Yard as witnesses for the defence. Nor would my lawyers demand access to the contents of those boxes of evidence. That entire line of defence was to be ignored. It was deliberately swept under the carpet – on the instructions of, or with the collusion of – I know not whom to this day.
Much worse was the failure of my defence team to call Marta Andreasen as a defence witness. They offered a lame excuse suggesting she might not be credible since she was now a Tory MEP. Presumably they had talked to her at length to check her demeanour – though I somehow doubt it.
b) The other corner-stone of my defence was my eBook, A Mote in Brussels’ Eye, published in January 2013. Based entirely on my daily diaries during my five years as an MEP, my memoirs provided a contemporaneous account of my activities throughout. Most importantly, I sat as a fully engaged independent member of both the European Parliament’s Budget Control Committee and Constitutional Affairs Committee, although neither committee allowed me a vote. This was because I had not been elected a member but had been obliged to sit ex-officio.
I was elected to the Transport Committee and attended occasionally, as time permitted. Later in my term I sat on a temporary committee set up to investigate the conditions in Northern Cyrus which had been occupied by the Turkish army for many years despite the entire island being part of the EU.
My book is still on the market via the internet. In it are scores of my 400+ written questions to the European Commission and their usually evasive answers, and many of my one-minute speeches in the European Parliament. All are also on the public record in Brussels to this day and in all official languages.
This material was the cornerstone of my defence – and more than justified the otherwise unaccounted-for expenditure of my various allowances. In any case, the whole point of the allowances was – at the time – to allow MEPs to use such financial resources to investigate any aspects of the EU’s activities which concerned or interested them. Even more to the point was the lack of any obligation to account for such expenditure – and quite right too. The whole point of our being elected was to allow the EU’s version of democracy to function freely. (Mind you, after my activities came to light those rules were quickly tightened up and the use of parliamentary allowances had to be approved and fully accounted for. So much for true democracy.)
I told my defence team that my book was the platform on which to build my defence. They told me that the judge had told them that it would be rejected as ‘hearsay’! The fact that it was based entirely on my daily diary and contemporaneous notes, and that I was and still am a professional in the sense of having spent a working lifetime collecting, analysing and presenting information in writing – all that apparently counted for nothing. At the start of the trial they again said the judge had thrown my book out as ‘hearsay’ – and that was an end of the matter. If that was true, he did not have the courtesy to say it in my hearing.
Despite that, my meticulous accusations against the EU stand. They include incontrovertible evidence of institutionalised corruption by EU officials; proof of systematic looting of tax-payers’ money; the deliberate dilution of national identities by mass immigration; the EU’s funding of illegal raw uranium exports from the former Belgium Congo to Iran (whist it was a proscribed country); the establishment of the EU’s Global Security Fund – essentially a private slush fund under the control of EU bureaucrats; and European tax-payers money being used to finance Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
Before addressing the other two issues, a detour…
Age and Memory
Ever since I was a young man people have told me how young I look. These days strangers usually under-estimate my age by anything up to 15 years. People in their 80s are assumed to be white-haired, crippled with arthritis, demented or going that way, and looking their age…and some.
But I do not, and I am well aware how fortunate I am. Except, of course, when it counts against me. Undoubtedly that is what happened at my trial.
For several years I have had memory problems and have sought specialist medical opinion and advice. My legal team refused to put any of this to the judge. As a result I found myself given evidence in my defence over several days (admittedly with short breaks) but without access to any records, notes or copies of any of my books about the EU, or even the book which had triggered the prosecution, A Mote in Brussels’ Eye.
Consequently I was often slow to answer questions from the prosecution (and the judge) as I struggled to remember at all, let alone with accuracy, the answers to issues and questions they chose to raise. I often hesitated and/or expressed uncertainty. How could I do otherwise in such circumstances? Trying to be accurate and precise was a mental nightmare, especially as the means to giving clear and accurate answers had been deliberately withheld. As an old man I was expected by the legal system to remember everything in full and exactly, and to respond promptly to every question. Impossible. Demonstrably impossible.
I obviously gave the jury (and everyone else) an impression of evasiveness at the very least. Of course they mistrusted evidence given in such a manner. I could see it in their eyes, and could no absolutely nothing about it.
Yet at no point (beyond the judge’s references to my needing a break) was my medical or mental condition explained, nor its being the cause of my hesitation and uncertainty. Neither was the impact of my high blood pressure, which I suffer from under normal circumstances, and for which I have taken daily medication for years. Yet it is a well-established medical fact that high blood pressure reduces the ability to think clearly or respond rationally.
The issue of my mental and medical conditions was discussed by my legal team several times and they were adamant that they would not raise them either with the judge or as part of my defence.
That decision was another big mistake by my legal team, and a seriously damaging error of judgement. It effectively guaranteed a guilty verdict.
A Trial Driven by Politics (part 2)
The effect of the various judicial decisions taken before and while the prosecution put its case, was that my defence was reduced to almost nothing. So, when it was eventually my turn in the witness box I was reduced to describing what I had done, but without producing or demonstrating any proof. The jury had been deliberately prevented from hearing in detail any of my written questions to the Commission, or their evasive answers, all of which would have highlighted the financial and executive mis-management I had uncovered. Such evidence would undoubtedly have shown how I had used my allowances to good effect and in the best interests of my constituents – and all the other British taxpayers – who were fully entitled to know how their taxes were being used (or misused) by the EU.
The political ‘management’ of my book during the trial was further evidenced at the end of the fourth – and last – week. The General Election was over, UKIP’s vote had undoubtedly been damaged by media coverage.
Then, out of the blue and without any warning, the judge suddenly announced that he would allow a few extracts from my book to be printed off and distributed to the jury. But he would decide which, and those essentially related to my research work! None of my written questions were allowed.
By the time this concession was made – on the Thursday of the last week - the jury had clearly lost interest. The jury foreman had already made it clear that they (the jury) had no intention of sitting into a fifth week. Indeed they intended to be finished and on their ways home by Friday afternoon.
So it was galling – to say the least – to watch the brief extracts printed out on the judge’s instructions being folded or screwed up by members of the jury and stuffed into their bags and holdalls, all unread. They had heard and seen enough, and weren’t now interested in my defence. After all, I was a well-paid Member of (the European) Parliament. I was a ‘toff’’ – and everyone knows all such people are on the fiddle.
In other words, whilst it could be held that my defence included solid evidence of my researches into EU corruption, no detail was on the public record, no specific evidence had been spelt out in open court, and none of the reporters in the press gallery were any the wiser.
c) As an experienced writer and director of what became known as business television (programmes made to aid communication between companies and their actual and potential client base) I wrote and produced several TV programmes on the UK’s relationship with the EU. I had also written several earlier books and pamphlets on the subject. One such programme Better Off Out was being made as I was elected to the European Parliament. It was an indictment of the damage being done to the UK by the many thousands of regulations which were finding their way into the British statute book as secondary legislation (known as statutory orders), which require little or no parliamentary debate or vote). Not only did I use some of my allowances after the election to finish the production, but I also used them throughout my term as an MEP to make many thousands of copies for distribution at the many scores of meetings I held across the huge south-east England constituency.
When we were planning my defence I told my legal team I wanted the jury to see that video as part of my defence. Whether they spoke to the judge or not, the answer was categoric - ‘quite impossible and impracticable’. The request was rejected. Again, it is now obvious that this was a political decision.
During my five years as an MEP the European Parliament’s bureaucrats made more than 15 major amendments to the rules governing the provision and use of allowances and expenses available to Members. Occasionally these changes were introduced only days apart – suggesting at the very least a lack of careful thinking at times. Furthermore, these changes became immediately operational. No notice was given.
Like all members busy with the big issues of the day I left routine matters and administration to my staff. I depended on them to draw my attention to anything I needed to know. That was the reality. The fiction was that the bureaucrats assumed I personally read every missive and made careful note of the minutest changes.
When Confiscation proceedings began after my conviction the prosecution alleged that I was liable to “repay” £599,258.37 – a total far in excess of all unaccounted expenses and allowances over my five-year term. It was so excessive and unjustifiable that its effect was to undermine the prosecution’s credibility. Indeed it exceeded all the expenses payable to office staff (I employed three) and running costs, travel to - and subsistence in – Brussels and Strasbourg for three weeks in every month, and other operational incidentals. My lawyers have had all these figures, now for years, but refuse to return them to me. So what follows later are best estimates from the records I have to hand.
In addition, allowances to finance political activities (research, travel and consequential expenses) were fixed in total but available without question or accountability on the entirely proper grounds that an MEP’s political activities were his own business and not those of officials.
Antoine Poirel, head of the European Parliament’ expenditure unit, who gave evidence for the prosecution at my trial, told a court hearing another case (Peter Skinner, Labour) that “only on very limited occasions” were MEPs asked for “real proof” of allowances expenditure. “We do not want (code for ‘cannot’) interfere with their detailed political activities.” Quite right too. Bureaucrats are there to assist – not interfere.
During my term of office many MEPs ‘employed’ family members, although the practise was frowned on. I did not – as a matter of principle. Indeed, at one time, my wife – a French graduate – spent many weeks translating a large confidential EU document which was only available in French. My wife was paid nothing for the work and this was agreed between us beforehand and as a matter of principle.
If I had used my expenses and allowances for “personal gain”, as the charges alleged, why do I not have a substantial personal investment portfolio? Why did I still have a substantial mortgage? Why did I have to apply for – and receive – legal aid to fund my defence? Why was legal aid granted? Why did the state not attempt to recover legal aid costs after a guilty verdict, which is normal practise?
The way legal aid was handled or, rather, mishandled (to say nothing of the surrounding events already detailed) leaves little doubt that a guilty verdict was paramount. Even the defence team was effectively chosen for me, in that I was told on more than one occasion that I was not allowed to change any of them.
If I was planning to defraud the EU (or anyone else) surely I would have gone about it as thoroughly as I did anything else. Why would I have been so open in managing my EU funds - apart from funding my whistle-blowers, of course? It would have been an absurd way to conduct a massive theft. Surely I would have hidden the money, paid funds to third parties, financed an investment fund somewhere, and arranged an untraceable route to it. None of that happened. Only payments to my many whistle-blowers were hidden. Such payments were always in cash and always made with the help of intermediaries.
I deliberately kept minimal records and regularly destroyed them. The security and personal safety of my whistle-blowers were my paramount concerns – and it worked! My book A Mote in Brussels’ Eye provides ample evidence.All the evidence offered by the prosecution during the trial offered much circumstantial evidence of guilt. But that was the best they could do. I knew it, and they knew it. They produced no solid proof. Nor could they. There was none. Equally, we, the defence, could not prove otherwise. Proving a negative is – by definition – impossible.
Without my detailed records (withheld by my lawyers) I cannot put firm figures on income and expenditure. The following are therefore maximum estimates only, subject to revision downwards of course.
Income for operational expenses (over five years)
Allowances for political activities
+/- 50,000/year (say 250,000 over five years)
Expenditure over five years
DARTT (bus/meetings/literature) approx. 60-100,000
BOOF (filming/video copies) approx. 60,000
Defence of EU test case approx. 200,000
Whistle-blowers and related costs approx. 300,000
Advice to MEPs not Seeking Re-election
At the end of my time (late 2009) I attended several meetings with the bureaucrats who managed the affairs of the European Parliament. Well over 100 MEPs attended each time. In answer to a specific question we were told there was no need to keep any personal records for more than a year after the end of our term of office. We could safely destroy them. I did so, not least to clear my home of a small mountain of paperwork I no longer needed.
So when, some four years later, I was investigated by Hampshire police on the instructions of the EU (via the UK government) I had little solid evidence of what I had done during my term of office, and how my resources had been deployed. At best it was already in my published books and the rest was in my head.
Obviously I had long destroyed anything which might incriminate any of my whistle-blowers at the time. But, at the end of my term of office almost everything else was destroyed too.
This loss of documents proved to be a huge handicap to my defence. At least three of the original charges I faced could have been completed refuted had the documentary proof still existed. This handicap was completely ignored by the judge. The absence of proof was no proof at all as to how my allowances and expenses had been used.
Propensity to Defraud
In 2007, half way through my time as an elected MEP and when my reputation as a trouble-maker and nosy-parker was well established, the European Commission made an attempt to have me removed. The whole story is told in my memoirs A Mote in Brussels’ Eye. Essentially they seized on the fact that I had been receiving benefits during the short time in the early 1990s when I was out of work and we had to sell our home. Mine was one of over 100,000 businesses destroyed as a result of the ERM crash. It took me a while to recover, during which time I did apply for out-of-work benefit – to my huge embarrassment and only until I found a script-writing project abroad and immediately ceased receiving benefits.
Now, more than ten years later, I was an MEP. But that previous personal catastrophe could serve as a pretext for accusations of benefit fraud. The EU went to town. They hired a lawyer, who was a QC and Head of Chambers no less, to lead the prosecution and dredged up a mis-mash of witnesses in support.
Unsurprisingly I was found guilty and sentenced to nine months (in an open jail).
But the EU had lost! An MEP could lose his seat only if he was sentenced to a year or more. So, a few months later I was back in Brussels making just as much trouble as before – if not more.
But the conviction stood, and the law had been changed in 2004 to allow people accused of a crime to have their previous convictions raised as part of the evidence against them in their current trial. (Quite where that leaves the proposition that you are innocent until proven guilty I cannot say) The judge hearing my case ruled that the previous conviction showed a ‘propensity’ to criminality and the jury should be made aware. The fact that I had never previously been involved in the law in all my seven decades apparently counted for nothing.
Consequently, the jury heard countless references to this stain on my character throughout the four-week trial. It was hammered home relentlessly, and must have had a profound effect on the jury. That information simply added to the impossibility of a fair trial. It must have coloured their view of everything they heard, and almost certainly played a part in their reaching their verdicts in barely 90 minutes on the last day.
Quite how the EU and the local authority made contact with each other I don’t know, but they did. Perhaps the EU was already casting around for a vehicle to get me thrown out of the Parliament, and simply asked the UK government to make enquiries on their behalf.
Much later - when it was far too late – I learned that my defence team should have objected vigorously against any reference to my previous court case, and quoted case law in support.
By allowing the propensity argument the judge had chosen to ignore a legal ruling which had been applied in such cases for years:
In R v Hanson (2005) 2 C Appeal R (S) 21: “…the fewer the number of convictions the weaker is likely to be the evidence for propensity. A single previous conviction for an offence of the same description or category often does not show propensity…old convictions with no special features shared with the offence charged are likely to seriously affect the fairness of the proceedings adversely.”
Whether my defence team quoted any of the above ruling in my defence before the trial judge decided to allow my previous conviction to be revealed to the jury is unknown. But later conversations with them suggested not. Was this a further abuse of process?
A Curious Jury
Juries for trials at Southwark Crown Court are drawn from the suburbs of London – mainly but not entirely from the south-east quarter. All solid Labour seats. Advantage prosecution. And there were others.
The 30 or so individuals assembled for the selection process shared several characteristics. They had obviously been carefully but ‘randomly’ pre-selected. The majority – if not all – appeared to be C2DE members of the public (a demographic profiling classification of “working class and below” individuals). None of the men wore a suit, or a collar and tie. Of the 12 finally selected at least three – in my hearing – proved that their understanding of the English language was seriously limited. British nationals – in any meaningful sense – they were not. Given that the trial was scheduled to last four weeks it was obvious many of the jury would be dependent on benefits since none raised an issue with work commitments or obligations, let alone about running their own enterprises. My peers they were not.
b) Long before the end of the trial it was patently clear that most of the jury had lost interest. Given their obvious backgrounds they had been bored out of their minds by the prosecution’s endless repetition of detailed financial particulars relating to.my alleged mis-use of public funds. A couple of jurors regularly asked questions of the judge which inevitably demonstrated their total lack of understanding – and their complete inability to follow even relatively simple financial data. One of them – almost certainly an ill-educated middle-aged housewife – became foreman of the jury, no doubt precisely because she was always asking questions of the judge. By the middle of the last week that same individual told the judge in no uncertain terms that the trial had to be finished by the end of the week because “they” had other obligations the following week. A verdict had to be reached by the end of the Friday afternoon, come what may.
c) On the Friday morning, as part of his summing up, the judge gave the jury a document entitled “A Route to Verdict” which recommended the procedure the jury should follow to reach a decision. Effectively, it told the jury to ignore my motivation. It should consider only my actions. This ‘guidance’ removed the whistle-blower element of my defence entirely. The ‘greater good’, the electoral platform on which I was elected, the public interest, the best interests of my constituents – all were excluded by the judge’s Route to Verdict. Justification was not a defence, it seemed, nor my use of allowances to finance it. That left “personal gain” as the only verdict. (I was not given a copy of Route to Verdict at the time, which my lawyers did nothing to rectify. It was only long after the trial that I finally obtained a copy, the contents of which made the reason for my exclusion from its distribution at the time crystal clear.)
It offered the jury – whose level of interest has already been established – three pages of closely argued legalese about the criminal nature of money transfers, acquiring and concealing criminal property, and false accounting. It made no mention of other factors which might have suggested either mitigation or innocence, or both. Nor did it cover the full spread of charges being considered, whichever they were in the arraignment confusion.
When he finished his summing up late on the Friday morning the judge told the jury to go and have lunch and then start considering their verdicts. Just over 100 minutes later (one hour and 42 minutes to be exact) they returned with guilty verdicts on every count. Allow for collecting lunch, and they had taken barely 90 minutes or so to review the evidence and make their decision. Getting home for the rest of the afternoon and getting ready for the weekend were obviously far more important to the jury…and to hell with the consequences. They had had enough.
e) The verdicts have not changed the facts
Servicing the Constituency
The European Union’s constituency for south-east England is one of the largest in the EU. Over eight million people are eligible to vote. It stretches from Dover to the Wiltshire/Dorset border and from the Isle of Wight to the northern tip of Oxfordshire, excluding central London. Ten MEPs were elected in 2004, representing four political parties. All of us were expected to “represent” all eight million people simultaneously. The great majority of constituents did not know how to get in touch (we did not have constituency offices or other means of ready contact). Nor did they have any means of knowing which (if any) MEP might be willing and able to help them with any EU-related problems. The whole overwhelmed the parts.
As MEPs we were part of an elaborate and expensive illusion of democracy. Worse, no newspapers served the whole area. The national press largely ignored us as a source of news. Local and regional newspapers were our only means of making contact with constituents and - even then – if you had an address in another part of the vast constituency local media elsewhere ignored you.
Personal contact was the only solution. With a team of supporters and volunteers I embarked on a non-stop programme of local town and village meetings right across the entire constituency. This programme was so extensive we gave every constituent at least one opportunity to meet me and my team. Hiring halls, printing posters, leaflets and hand-outs cost a great deal of money and it all came from my allowances. This ‘management’ of public funds was essential because the EU took the view that I had no reason to communicate with constituents because I was an ‘unattached’ MEP. Therefore I had no allowances for meetings and constituency work. All other MEPs, members of official political parties, were able to draw down allowances for constituency work. But not MEPs who were ‘unattached’. We could use only allowances available, so I used two near-dormant bank accounts already in existence for constituency work.
My film Better Off Out was made to broadcast quality, just like the hundreds of productions I had written and directed during my business career. The script demanded filming all over the UK. As director I took the sound and camera crew to Wales, Scotland, various parts of England, including London, and a trip on a north-sea trawler. The shoot took several weeks and incurred substantial travel and accommodation costs. I hired a professional ‘voice-over’ to record my script both on location and in a sound studio. Finally, the production team spent many days in an editing suits putting the final production together.
Essentially, its message was to advocate a bonfire of EU regulations, and freedom from such an antiquated solution to the problems of the 1930s – which is essentially what the EU represented – and still does. It would certainly not be invented today. Better Off Out argued that the fast-moving hi-tech society of today will thrive on flexibility, responsiveness and positive attitudes. Diversity thrives when new ideas and competition are encouraged. That way lies new jobs, wealth and investment. Everything, in fact, the EU is against.
Over the following years many thousands of copies of Better Off Out were produced and widely distributed across my constituency and at countless local meetings. I also shot and produced several other EU-related videos. All of them were copied many thousands of times for free distribution during my five years in office, again financed by my allowances.
To improve contact with constituents I eventually persuaded a reluctant European Parliament bureaucracy to agree to my having a constituency bus so that my team and I could visit towns and villages during the day and make myself available to constituents as they walked by. It was a great success. The capital cost of some £3000 for an old single-decker generated at least as much cost again to strip it out and install the facilities we needed. These included a private meeting area at the rear, a display area for leaflets, posters, books, videos, and space for announcements and other potentially useful contact information. A group seating area was set up to accommodate small meetings, with a TV so that we could play videos as required. Finally, a small catering area provided hot drinks and snacks.
I hired the services of a retired professional driver with the appropriate licence. Beyond that, the principle cost was fuel. However, over the years some heavy additional and unplanned costs were incurred – including a new (refurbished) engine when the original failed and we had to be towed back to base; a set of re-tread tyres; and endless running and operational costs, most of which had been unbudgeted from sheer ignorance!
Despite the costs paid from my allowances – and the later allegation that they had been misused – I know the constituency work I did over my five years was worthwhile, and well worth every penny. Many thousands of my constituents benefitted, or at least had the opportunity to benefit. They knew what the EU really was!
A further expenditure of some £15,000 on local advertising across the constituency also ensured they had a fair idea of the effects of the Lisbon Treaty when it became law in the UK. I also constantly drew attention to the fact that the EU was using British tax-payers’ money to help finance the BBC – a scam which is still bearing fruit years later.
I can claim with some certainty that no MEP did more to be held accountable. And no other MEP, either before or since, has ever been allowed to use his allowances to buy and operate what was, in effect, a mobile constituency office.
The Hayes Dimension
Among the charges I faced in 2014 was the accusation that I paid some £200,000 from my allowances to my solicitor Christopher Hayes, and that this was somehow for personal gain. The facts setting out my entirely professional relationship with Edward Hayes and Partners were made available to the jury via my own evidence and that of the head of the European Parliament’s staff, a Mr Verhargen. For reasons not clear to me at the time Mr Hayes – who had not been arrested, nor been charged and the charges then dropped – was not called as a witness for the defence. As a result, the jury (had they been paying attention) would have had only the vaguest idea of the working relationship between Mr Hayes and myself.
My first contact with Mr Hayes was when I was confronted with the EU’s first attempt to remove me from the European Parliament in 2004. His firm was listed as one of the few firms in the area who handled criminal matters. Prior to that I had never heard of Mr Hayes. A preliminary meeting satisfied me that he could handle my defence. It was not a success largely because the QC he appointed to lead my defence in court was much more interested in going on holiday. He even threatened to leave the case half way through. Nevertheless, I felt Mr Hayes was a thorough capable and trustworthy man.
Meanwhile the CPS had appointed a QC who was also Head of Chambers to lead the prosecution case – overkill which demonstrates the determination of the CPS to meet the wishes of the EU. A conviction followed by a one-year custodial sentence would get me thrown out of the European Parliament.
The case was lost but the EU failed in its objective. The judge decided nine months was enough and I was back in Brussels immediately after the summer break.
An EU Test Case
Shortly after I returned to the European Parliament I was told mine was to become a test case in Britain to establish whether a British MEP had immunity from prosecution. I asked Mr Hayes to assist me. I had no wish whatsoever to claim such immunity, but the EP’s bureaucrats demanded that I defend the accusation to establish (for them) the law on the question. Mr Vanhargen confirmed as much in his evidence in 2015. The EP also readily agreed that I use my allowances to fund my ‘defence’ which was ultimately authorised by Mr Vanhargen himself.
My legal team was briefed, made several visits to Brussels to meet lawyers for the prosecution, and conducted a full defence against the claim that I was immune from prosecution - and also made it crystal clear that I was making no such claim, and never had. In due course the law was clarified and, as a result, no future British MEP would be immune from prosecution.
The origins and real purpose of all this legal nit-picking were never made clear to me. But the costs were substantial. The totally unsurprising eventual decision also generated consequences. Over the following months several of my political opponents attempted to exploit the outcome of the EU’s test case for their own personal benefit, by mounting civil cases against me. They, too, generated legal costs which were met from my allowances since they were incurred solely because of the EU’s test case.
My Solicitor Under Threat….
It was clear after the completion of evidence at my prosecution in 2015 that the jury did not have a clear picture of my relationship with Mr Hayes. It was entirely professional, confined to my being his client and he my solicitor - and nothing else. Mr Hayes’ absence as a witness for the defence was decisively against my best interests.
So was the absence as witnesses of all the legal team who assisted my defence in the EU’s 2004 test case against the notion of British MEPs having immunity from prosecution.
Quiet ‘arrangements’ behind the scenes between the prosecution and the defence lawyers had ensured that I had no effective defence to those specific Hayes-related charges (specifically the mis-use of my allowances). That part of my trial appeared – at the time - to be a careful agreed ‘stitch-up’ between the legal teams, the sole purpose being the protection of one of their own.
But it became apparent some time later that Mr Hayes had not appeared for the defence because by then he was himself under threat from the Law Society for his own conduct while he was advising and assisting me in Brussels. But I had not been told.
Transcripts between the judge and my legal team, revealed much later and after deliberate obstruction had finally been overcome, showed that my own lawyers decided not to call Mr Hayes, despite the judge making it perfectly clear that they were free to do so – which rather suggests the judge thought it the right thing to do in my interests. With hindsight it is clear the absence of Mr Hayes from the witness box was catastrophic. He would have made clear that the substantial sums I was obliged to pay him were paid with good reason and justification. As it was, the jury heard nothing of the test case over immunity and the consequential fall-out from opportunists trying to exploit the outcome for their personal and political benefit.
A couple of years after I left the European Parliament at the end of my five-year term, out of the blue and to my great surprise I heard from Edward Hayes and Partners again. I was told that the firm was being investigated for receiving legal fees from Brussels during my term of office to which they were not entitled. The EU was apparently demanding many thousands of pounds back and/or threatening my lawyers with misappropriation, or some such.
After my term of office was over the EU had decided that – with hindsight or as mischief-making – I should have met from my own personal resources all the costs of defending the immunity test case against me. Long before, as I have already explained, I had made it clear that I did not wish to defend the case as a matter of principle. It had been brought against me solely because the EU bureaucrats argued it was a test case in law.
Shortly after Edward Hayes and Partners alerted me to what was happening to them I started receiving in euros a series of demands from the European Parliament for refunds of those same costs incurred in my test case – presumable on the grounds that if they could not be recovered from my lawyers they best be recovered from me instead.
Those same sums, now in sterling, made up the total included in charges 6 to 9 in the original indictment, charges 6 and 7 in the second version and charges 5 and 6 in the charges on which I was never arraigned and which were never put to the jury – at least not in my hearing. Yet they became the platform on which all the guilty verdicts were returned – despite the jury not knowing they even existed.
....And Then Struck Off
Almost eight years after I left the European Parliament my solicitor, Christopher Hayes, who had advised me throughout my time in Brussels, was struck off by the Law Society. He was also told to pay some £90,000 in costs. He was found guilty of receiving funds from the European Parliament in payment for work commissioned by me and – at the time – specifically recommended and authorised by senior EU bureaucrats.
Christopher Hayes was an experienced solicitor of many years standing. He was well used to handling both criminal and family matters, and came highly recommended by another solicitor whom I knew well but who did not handle criminal cases. To this day I have no reason to doubt either his integrity or his ability. But what happened to him as a result of his work with and for me during my time in the European Parliament was both a tragedy and an outrage.
In my case, the British judicial system chose knowingly to ignore the EU’s own judicial system and law. The EU initiated proceedings against me entirely for reasons already explored.
But with Christopher Hayes the British judicial system chose steadfastly to ignore EU law and judicial procedures as if they did not exist.
Those responsible for the tribunal that struck off Christopher Hayes as a solicitor must have positively chosen to ignore the fact that he (like me) was acting under regulations determined by the EU – and that those regulations and procedures took precedence over the UK’s judicial system.
Yet the full report of his tribunal hearing and conclusions makes not one concession to the EU’s very existence, let alone its procedures, attitudes and activities, to say nothing of its legal superiority over UK law.
In my case, none of my legal team was prepared to research the EU’s impact on the issues involved. Instead they allowed the EU to dictate the agenda.
But the tribunal hearing the Hayes case chose (repeat chose) not to investigate the attitudes, criteria and cultural of the EU and its impact on English law. Which is why the 36-page tribunal report contains – in addition to several careless errors of fact and incorrect dates – the narrowest interpretation of English law and practises. The full story is ignored. To have taken full account of the Brussels dimension would have destroyed the case against Mr Hayes and that could not be allowed to happen.
The tribunal took the same attitude towards me. At no time was I asked to attend as a witness. At no time was I interviewed. The solicitors dealing with my defence preparations between 2013 and my trial in 2015 said not a word about Christopher Hayes’ career being threatened by the Law Society.
Despite a total absence of any contact between us, the tribunal report felt free to criticise me as ‘manipulative’, ‘intimidating’, ‘unusually difficult’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘strong-minded’, and ‘a very convincing individual’. Whether, or how, the tribunal attempted to justify such epithets to themselves remains an open question. No evidence was offered in their report.
As for the case against Christopher Hayes, there are a few essential facts the tribunal chose to ignore and which could – and should - have made all the difference to the outcome:
As already stated, the EU told me that I was to be used as a test case to establish whether a UK MEP had immunity from prosecution whilst in office. (This was the case in several other EU member countries.) As I have already detailed at some length, I protested that I did not seek immunity from prosecution, nor would I ask for it. My protests were ignored and the case went ahead. I was obliged to mount a token defence – against my better judgement – which obviously cost a great deal of money in legal fees. All that funding came out of my allowances and expenses, with the full agreement of the European Parliament’s Chief Financial Officer.
2. It quickly became apparent that, as an MEP with a controversial political stance and many political enemies, my opponents were prepared to go to great lengths to unseat me. I was obviously going to need the legal advice of an experienced solicitor in the UK. To cope with the management aspects of the legal advice that same head of the EP’s finance department told me to estimate the average likely cost over a year and have fees paid monthly, obviously with a settling-up every so often. That would reduce paperwork but keep funds flowing. The Law Society’s tribunal was not told any of this, but Mr Hayes was found guilty of being a party to such arrangement. Personally I did not have a problem with it since it was a perfectly reasonable way to arrange payment for services rendered. Furthermore, by definition, all my legal needs during those five years were the direct and inescapable consequence of my being an MEP.
The unavoidable and bitter irony in this sorry tale is the fact that the EU has been shown to be one of the most fundamentally corrupt organisations of modern times, and beyond redemption. Worse, no member state has any control over the EU’s finances.
So why did the UK’s Law Society tribunal not ask the EU to explain its role in my affairs and that of Mr Hayes when dealing with EU allowances and expenses? Why were EU officials not asked to clarify our business relationship? They must have known. But the tribunal chose to ignore them.
Finally, given all the circumstances, the notion that Christopher Hayes was regarded by the EU as one of my whistle-blowers cannot be ignored. It would also help explain the reluctance of the EU to get involved in the tribunal – assuming that they knew about it. If he was a whistle-blower (he was not), the EU would have seen him rot.
The consequences of Mr Hayes’ treatment by the EU and the UK’s Law Society are a scandal, a disgrace and have brought ignominy on both – not that that is anything new to the EU.
But, much more importantly, they have destroyed a good, capable, thorough and hard-working solicitor’s livelihood, reputation and professional future. They have destroyed a good man – and for no good or remotely justifiable reason whatsoever.
What they did between them was iniquitous beyond words – deliberate and calculated evil.
Investigative journalist and later head of public affairs for a major food company.
Script and speech writer. Columnist. Author.
From 1972 to 1990 ran a specialist international marketing company. Offices in the UK, Houston and Atlanta, USA, and sales bases in Geneva, Singapore and Stockholm. The company specialised in working with multi-national industrial companies seeking to expand their sales activities internationally. Clients were in electronics, the oil and gas sector, heavy engineering, industrial manufacturing, defence, commercial property and tourism, amongst others.
Staff totalled about 40 at the peak of business, and we employed countless freelance specialists as the incoming work demanded.
Over the years we played an important part in helping to bring tens of millions of dollars-worth of foreign currencies into the UK, and joked about being the smallest multi-national in the world!
In the early 1990s the ERM disaster destroyed over 100,000 businesses. We were one of them.
Sacking 40 people in an afternoon, and selling my home to cover debts was a cathartic experience and set off my enquiries into the role of the EEC (as it then was) in the disaster that had overtaken us.
The rest, as they say, is history.