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Former Labour MP Margaret Moran from Southampton is accused of receiving £53,000 from false expenses claims
FORMER Labour MP Margaret Moran received £53,000 by making false expenses claims, a court heard today.
Prosecutor Peter Wright QC told the jury her claims made between 2004 and 2008 totalled around £60,000, and that Moran received around £53,000 to which she was not entitled.
The former politician was found unfit to stand trial at Southwark Crown Court due to mental health issues, so the proceedings are taking place in her absence.
Rather than finding her guilty, jurors have to decide whether Moran did commit the acts alleged in the charges, and whether they amount to the offences with which she is charged.
Mr Justice Saunders told them: ''It would be unfair for you to be able to find her guilty when she has had no opportunity to give her side of the story.
''Doctors have said to require her to attend court could have serious consequences for her physical health.''
It is alleged that the former MP for Luton South, who stood down at the last election, ''flipped'' her designated second home, making claims for properties in London, Luton and Southampton.
One of the 21 charges she is facing relates to a claim for £22,500 to treat dry rot at her Southampton home.
Moran's health began to deteriorate after allegations about MPs' expenses claims came to light in 2010, the jury heard.
Mr Wright said: ''Eventually her health deteriorated such that in April this year the court determined she was unfit to stand trial.''
He told the jury that Moran, who had been an MP since 1997, was ''entirely familiar'' with the constraints of the system for claiming expenses.
''She was, we say, entirely familiar with the scheme. She was also, we say, entirely familiar with its constraints,'' Mr Wright said.
Rules governing MPs' expenses at the time meant bills and invoices were not needed for claims under £250, the court heard.
But Mr Wright said MPs were made aware ''this was not some private pot you can dip into if you choose''.
''The underlying responsibility of each MP is to conduct their financial affairs with the utmost probity,'' he said.
Mr Wright went on: ''The scheme was based on trust, and that was made abundantly clear.''
He told jurors that some MPs would change where their second home was, or swap the address with their main home.
Mr Wright said: ''The scheme permitted an MP to claim for only one second home. It makes obvious sense does it not?
''There was however no prohibition on an MP changing their second home or even swapping their main and second home. It was a practice that became known as 'flipping'.
''There are examples in this case of flipping main and second homes.''
In 2004, Moran's main home, for which she could not claim expenses, was in her constituency in Luton, and her second home, for which she could claim costs, was in Westminster in central London.
Then in February 2007 she switched her main home to Southampton, and her second home was designated as Luton, the jury heard. She let her Westminster flat for more than £1500 per month.
In October 2008 she swapped her addresses so that her main home was in Luton and her second in Southampton.
Mr Wright said: ''Mrs Moran made, we say, a large number of false claims. Some of them were supported by bogus invoices that appear to have been created by her, or on her behalf, and submitted by her in the claims that were made.''
He told the court that Mrs Moran ''abused the scheme'', going as far as to resubmit expenses claims with different descriptions and supportive invoices if they were initially rejected by parliamentary authorities.