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MPs who gave ‘naughty Tory’ Charlie Elphicke character references after sex attack conviction

A group of senior Tory politicians have criticised attempts to publish character references provided to a former party MP jailed for sexual assault. 

MPs Bob Stewart, Sir Roger Gale, Adam Holloway and Theresa Villiers, and peer Lord Freud, hit out at the Guardian newspaper saying it wanted to publish ‘dozens’ of such references provided on behalf of Charlie Elphicke.  

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

The quintet today published the positive references they provided to the judge at Southwark Crown Court, saying that those sent by his constituents contained confidential information and should remain private.

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. Such documents are often introduced in sentencing hearings. 

Col Stewart told the Commons today that the documents had been provided ‘solely to assist in sentencing during a criminal trial’, adding: ‘If allowed this will be a fundamental change of practice with far-reaching consequences  for the criminal justice system.’

He urged Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to allow time for an urgent debate on the matter.       

The former Dover MP was jailed for two years after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women

The former Dover MP was jailed for two years after being found guilty of three sexual assaults on two younger women

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

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

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.

In a statement today they said: ‘It has long been the practice of the courts to request that defendants in criminal trials provide character references to assist the court in determining what sentence should be imposed. People providing such references are discharging a civic duty to the court and to the community as a whole.

‘The purpose of a reference is not to seek to excuse the behaviour which has led to a criminal conviction, only to provide information about the previous general conduct and character of the defendant as it is perceived by the referee.’

‘We understand that the judge in Mr Elphicke’s case will soon be considering whether to release the references provided in his case to the media. 

‘This would involve a radical change of approach by the courts and we believe it would cause harm and distress to the people who have given assistance to the court by providing character references. In order that we may speak out freely in defence of such individuals, we are taking the step of publishing the references we gave to the court.’

Sir Roger Gale

Sir Roger Gale

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.

 

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.

‘We are concerned that ordering publication of references will deter members of the public from providing them in future cases because they fear being made the subject of vilification in the media or in social media. If release of character references is allowed by the court in this case, this would be a change of practice with far reaching consequences potentially leading to the publication of character references in every case. The chilling effect that would have could well bring an end to the practice and utility of character references.’

‘We believe that senior judges should consider the crucially important matters of principle which are at stake in this case. So serious a matter with such significant repercussions also should be considered further and fully by Parliament.’

They have written to Dame Kathryn Thirlwall, the Senior Presiding Judge (England and Wales) and Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen’s Bench Division. 

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