Three Tory MPs are set to be suspended over an “egregious” attempt to influence a former colleague’s legal proceedings, the Commons Standards Committee has found.
Theresa Villiers, Natalie Elphicke, Sir Roger Gale, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart were found to have fallen foul of the rules by seeking to interfere in a legal decision regarding ex-MP Charlie Elphicke.
The committee said former environment secretary Ms Villiers, senior Conservative Sir Roger, and Ms Elphicke should all be suspended from the House for one day, while all five were told to apologise.
“The letters signed and sent by the members in this case were an attempt improperly to influence judicial proceedings,” the committee said.
“Such egregious behaviour is corrosive to the rule of law and, if allowed to continue unchecked, could undermine public trust in the independence of judges.”
All five wrote to senior members of the judiciary raising concerns that a more junior judge was considering publishing character references provided for Mr Elphicke, who was convicted of sex offences.
During his trial it was revealed that he chased his first victim around his kitchen, shouting “I’m a naughty Tory” while his wife was away from home in 2007.
He was accused of grabbing the woman by the breast as he pushed her down onto his sofa and tried to kiss her.
Nine years later he twice assaulted a woman in Westminster and was arrested when she went to the police.
In sentencing him in September, Mrs Justice Whipple, described Elphicke as a “sexual predator” who had abused his power and position to target women.
But Rachna Gokani representing Elphicke argued that the judge had wrongly applied the sentencing guidelines and urged the Court of Appeal to reduce the two-year term or suspend it so he could be released from prison.
In their ruling the appeal judges rejected the application to challenge the original sentence.
Lady Justice Carr said: “The appellant was someone prepared to exploit his position of power and trust in order to pursue his sexual desires, as opposed to being sexually clumsy and unable to read social signals, as suggested (on his behalf).
“He used his power to create conditions in which he believed that he could act on his sexual desires without fear of consequence.”