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British Lawmakers Face Criminal Trials Over Expenses


Britain's Labour Party's David Chaytor, center right, and Elliot Morley, behind him left, leave Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, Mar 2010 (file photo)

Britain's Labour Party's David Chaytor, center right, and Elliot Morley, behind him left, leave Westminster Magistrates Court in central London, Mar 2010 (file photo)

Three former members of the British parliament face criminal trials for theft related to a scandal over members' inflated claims for expenses. The country's highest court ruled Wednesday that the 300-year-old law of parliamentary privilege does not give the defendants immunity from prosecution in this case.

The ex-lawmakers - David Chaytor, Elliot Morley and Jim Devine - had contended that parliament, not the criminal courts, should consider complaints of members' wrongdoing.

Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper last year identified hundreds of lawmakers who filed questionable expense claims for such things as home improvements, furnishings, gardening and dog food. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to resign when records showed she sought taxpayer reimbursement for two pornographic movies her husband had rented.

Nearly 400 current and former British lawmakers have been ordered to repay $1.8 million in bogus claims.

The Supreme Court dismissed the lawmakers' arguments without comment Wednesday, but promised a detailed ruling would be issued later.

The scandal led the speaker of the House of Commons to issue a public apology and forced a spate of resignations. Lawmakers from both of Britain's main parties also issued apologies for the excessive expense claims.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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