Ex-U.K. Lawmaker Wins Case Over Police Search in Expenses ProbeErik Larson
Paul White, a former U.K. lawmaker jailed in a probe into expenses fraud by politicians, won a lawsuit alleging police wrongfully arrested him and searched his home without a warrant after his release from prison.
White, a Conservative member of the unelected House of Lords where he is known as Lord Hanningfield, won unspecified damages from Essex Police over his treatment on Sept. 14, 2011, when he was detained in an early morning raid, Judge David Eady said in a ruling in London today.
“He was not informed that they lacked a search warrant,” Eady said. “Their case is that Lord Hanningfield invited them into his home. I think it unlikely that he actually invited the officers in.”
The case stems from stories about lawmakers’ expenses that started appearing in the Daily Telegraph in 2009, after the newspaper bought a computer disc containing details of the claims. Several current and former lawmakers were convicted for seeking reimbursement for items ranging from false travel accommodations to phony cleaning services.
White served two months out of a nine-month sentence in 2011 after agreeing to wear an electronic tag and submit to a curfew. Five days after his release, he was arrested by Essex Police in a related fraud case and his home was searched.
Essex police made the arrest as part of a separate investigation into whether White had engaged in expenses fraud during his time on the Essex City Council, according to the ruling. Police didn’t pursue the case and Eady rejected their claims the arrest was needed to ensure an effective search.
“Essex Police is disappointed with today’s judgment and are considering the merits of appealing,” police said in a statement. “The court accepted that officers had acted in good faith and that they had honestly believed the arrest was necessary.”
There were no solid grounds to determine that White might destroy or hide evidence before a warrant could be obtained, Eady said.