Margaret Moran 'Unfit' To Go On Trial

Former Labour MP Margaret Moran will not face a jury on charges of fiddling her Parliamentary expenses after a judge determined she is not fit to plead.

Mr Justice Saunders said the 56-year-old would not have to appear in court after hearing evidence from consultant forensic psychiatrist Philip Joseph that Moran, who was described as a ''broken woman'', was suffering from a depressive illness and extreme anxiety and agitation.

He considered reports from doctors for both the prosecution and the defence.

Dr Joseph told Lewes Crown Court, in East Sussex, that the stress of the proceedings and allegations Moran was facing made it impossible for her to participate in court proceedings.

He said: ''There have been concerns at times that she has been suicidal and concerns about attempts to harm herself.''

Dr Joseph was asked if he had considered the possibility that Moran, who was excused from attending the hearing, might be exaggerating her symptoms, but he said it was unlikely.

He told the court that the former MP, of Ivy Road, St Denys, Southampton, felt feelings of abandonment and rejection by the Labour Party and shame that her career was over.

Dr Joseph added that she also harboured feelings of guilt, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness and ''the feeling she is being punished for past mistakes for incidents in her childhood and adolescence''.

He said that when he saw Moran last October, she talked about her past which was affecting her current mental state.

He said: ''Things that had happened in her childhood were coming back to haunt her and she felt she was being punished for past issues in her childhood.''

Dr Joseph added that the ''vilification was causing her to become a broken woman'' and ''everything she used to bolster her self-esteem in her adult life had come crashing down''.

Moran was described as weeping inconsolably when she appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court last year on 15 charges of false accounting and six of using a false instrument relating to expense claims totalling around £80,000.

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.

Dr Joseph said she looked like a very different person, in a physical sense, when she last appeared at Southwark Crown Court in December.

He said: ''When she was an MP she was an exuberant personality. When that was taken away, she looked physically crushed and hunched.''

He added that Moran's ''catastrophic reaction'' to events was not surprising, given her ''genetic vulnerability'' and ''family history''.

Mr Justice Saunders said: ''Dr Joseph has attempted to discuss the allegations with her and is satisfied that she is not able to give proper instructions.

''He recorded her as saying 'I just want to plead guilty and be punished', but his view and my judgment is that is unlikely to have been a response reached after a proper consideration of the allegations and is simply an attempt to get the matter over with and assuage feelings of guilt which may relate to other matters.''

He added that while the result would be viewed with ''scepticism by some'', both sides were in broad agreement and all the experts agreed that Moran is unfit to plead.

The case was adjourned to Southwark Crown Court on November 15 for a three-day hearing for a jury to determine whether the defendant did the acts alleged by the prosecution.