Top judge slams MPs for interfering in ‘naughty Tory’ Charlie Elphicke’s sex assault case

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Top judge slams MPs for interfering in ‘naughty Tory’ Charlie Elphicke’s sex assault case by trying to stop character references being released

  • Private secretary of England’s Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, hits out at group
  • The group of MPs and a Tory peer wrote to top judges over release of references
  • References were given to the court in the case of ex-Tory MP Charlie Elphicke
  • Elphicke, 49, was jailed for two years in September for three sexual assaults

A top judge has slammed a group of MPs for interfering in the sex assault case of ‘naughty Tory’ Charlie Elphicke over a set of character references, according to reports.

Several MPs – including former minister Theresa Villiers – and a Conservative peer wrote to senior judges urging them to prevent the public release of the character references, used in Elphicke’s sentencing.

Elphicke, a former Dover MP, 49, was jailed for two years in September after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women. 

The group wrote to top legal officials – including the sentencing judge – raising concern over a hearing on whether the 34 character references written about Elphicke should be released.

They say the some of those who gave references have suffered ‘serious anxiety’ that their names might be made public. 

However the private secretary of England’s Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, has now hit out at the group for their letter, according to the Times.

Private secretary Ben Yallop described their actions as ‘improper’ for attempting to influence the decision of a judge.  

Elphicke (pictured with now-estranged wife Natalie), a former Dover MP, 49, was jailed for two years in September after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women

Several MPs - including former minister Theresa Villiers (pictured) - and a Conservative peer wrote to senior judges urging them to prevent the public release of the character references, used in Elphicke's sentencing

Several MPs – including former minister Theresa Villiers (pictured) – and a Conservative peer wrote to senior judges urging them to prevent the public release of the character references, used in Elphicke’s sentencing

According to the Times, Mr Yallop said in a letter: ‘Judges must be free to make their decision independently of pressure or influence from all, including legislators.

The response also said it was ‘regrettable’ that MPs had used House of Commons headed paper without regard for the ‘independence of the judiciary’.

The row came after media organisations, including the Times, the Guardian, and the Daily Mail’s publishers, Associated Newspapers, applied to sentencing judge, Mrs Justice Whipple, to allow the public release of the character references where the author is a public figure, in public office or holds or has held a position of public responsibility.

Character references are written by those who know a defendant and are used in court cases in mitigation for the person being sentenced.

They can help a judge to consider bringing a sentence down within the guidelines set for that offence.

But a group of MPs, who include Ms Villiers, Beckenham MP Bob Stewart, Gravesham MP Adam Holloway, North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, Elphicke’s now-estranged wife and current Dover MP Natalie Elphicke and peer Lord David Freud, wrote to top judges raising concern over the release of the references.

The group had written to senior presiding judge, Lady Justice Thirlwall, and president of the Queen’s Bench Division, Dame Victoria Sharp. 

They also reportedly copied in sentencing judge Mrs Justice Whipple. Mrs Justice Whipple will rule on the appeal tomorrow. 

Mr Stewart, Sir Roger Gale, Mr Holloway, Mrs Villiers, and Lord Freud, had earlier hit out at the Guardian newspaper over its attempts to release the references.

The quintet published the positive references they provided to the judge at Southwark Crown Court.

But they warned that those sent by his constituents contained confidential information and should remain private.

Roger Gale

Adam Holloway

MPs Bob Stewart, Sir Roger Gale, Adam Holloway and Theresa Villiers, and peer Lord Freud, today published letters provided to the court after Charlie Elphicke was convicted in September.

Lord Freud also published his character references provided to the court for Elphicke's sentencing

 Lord Freud also published his character references provided to the court for Elphicke’s sentencing

Theresa Villiers

Bob Stewart

MPs Bob Stewart, Sir Roger Gale, Adam Holloway and Theresa Villiers, and peer Lord Freud, today published letters provided to the court after Charlie Elphicke was convicted in September.

They warned that allowing those of members of the public to be published would cause ‘harm and distress to the people who have given assistance to the court.’

In their letters they acknowledged Mr Elphicke’s crimes and the effect on his victims, but ask the judge to take into account his years of long service as Dover MP from 2010 to 2019.

Southwark Crown Court heard in September how Elphicke declared himself a ‘naughty Tory’ as he chased his first victim around his central London family home in summer 2007, moments after groping her while they shared a bottle of wine.

He also groped a second woman, a parliamentary worker in her early 20s with whom he was ‘besotted’, twice in a month while Dover MP in 2016.

The 49-year-old former MP for Dover, who appeared in court alone, immediately released a statement following the verdict, announcing his intention to appeal and insisting he was innocent.   

His wife and successor as Dover MP Natalie Elphicke also defended him and she is backing the Conservatives who provided references.

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