Everyone, regardless of background or status is entitled to be considered equal in the eyes of the law. I have the perfect example of how this is not so and it’s particularly poignant to me because it was happening at the same time that my so-called three-ring-circus of a trial was in progress.
I’m referring to this lady, Margaret Moran, an MP who deliberately falsified her expenses on at least 21 occasions to line her own pocket at the tax-payers expense.
I know that being dragged through the courts is traumatic and can lead to depression. Ms Moran presented herself at court disguised as a distraught woman suffering from depression and unable to cope, looking like this – a very sorry sight indeed.
Gone was that audacious flower and attempts to win over the public in order to get their votes. Instead we have an Ena Sharples look-alike; a grey-haired old lady, dressed down and holding a snotty tissue. All very carefully designed to elicit sympathy and stave off the worst.
Mr Justice Saunders of Southwark Crown Court ruled that Moran was unfit to stand trial for mental health reasons and so could not receive a criminal conviction – a jury heard her case in her absence and found her guilty of 15 counts of false accounting and six other charges related to forged invoices (21 counts in all).
She ‘flipped’ homes in order to spend all of her parliamentary allowances and used £53,000 of tax-payers money to repair not only her home but that of her partner. I won’t go into great detail here because it’s all still out there in cyber-land, see Moran living it up!.
This clip shows part of the trail of the greed and deceit of this public servant. Fake invoices show premeditation and knowledge of what she is doing so there is no room for her to claim she didn’t know.
Let’s also consider the fact that she still owns the properties maintained at tax-payers expense and should she choose to sell them, she will reap further rewards because of the superior maintenance – she just can’t lose, can she.
I have to make it clear that I do believe that Moran was scared and depressed about her situation but you know what, so was I.
So let’s look at her depression and make a comparison or two. I was found guilty on two charges, one of ‘conspiracy to defraud’ and the other ‘making a false statement’ on a disability benefits claim form. I still have the form and the so-called false statement to this day and continue to wonder exactly what it is about this that is false.
Do I need to have someone with me when I am outdoors – NO!
I go on to say why I do not need help outside the house, because I basically have the support I need already – I got 12 months for this ‘false’ statement.
This is part of a DLA form submitted in 2006 and provides details of various long term, persistent health problems. It is these health problems which made it difficult to find full-time work with the correct level of understanding and support.
Like many people on benefits, the desire to work remains strong so in the meantime I provided my services on a voluntary basis to a not-for-profit organisation set up by a good friend. I did so on the understanding that I would do as much work from home as possible when I was unwell.
What was in it for me? The satisfaction of helping learning disabled youngsters gain valuable work experience and life skills through an action group at the local college; helping the elderly in the community to become more digitally aware in conjunction with AgeUK; providing a supportive learning environment for disabled people of all types, whether their condition was of a physical or psychological nature; advocating for individuals during lengthy appeals processes.
The organisation employed disabled people for all front-line roles and also engaged more able-bodied people as support workers. Travel to and from work as well as any business related travel together with any overheads incurred by making ‘reasonable adjustments’ were covered by a scheme called Access to Work, a programme run by the Department of Work & Pension.
Each ‘case’ for eligible support was made in written form, with the disabled individual as the client as required by the DWP. Each case was scrutinised in great depth and a business case made at regional level by local staff. I had input into those applications, liaising with the individual to understand their needs not only in the workplace but in getting to and from the workplace, suggesting viable disability aids and adjustments that would help them in their return to work.
Upon approval of each case, I would assist in negotiating the best deals for purchasing of any equipment and deal with many of the practical day-to-day management as a voluntary director. Why a director? Because many suppliers need to feel comfortable with whom they deal – all perfectly legitimate business strategy.
When Ms Moran conspired to defraud the public, she did so with deliberation, knowingly and to her own advantage and made a tidy profit while doing so.
My conspiracy apparently amounts to my helping disabled people by managing their claims for the Access to Work funding. in creating electronic forms for their monthly claims which included their signature. There was no requirement for a ‘wet’ signature and often I was not in the office to see them personally and my imperative was to make sure payments reached them in time (as would be required in any payroll situation).
How much of this money did I take/steal/conspire to keep?
None; zilch; nada; not a brass halfpenny.
How much did I expect? Nothing, it was not my money, I took no payments, bribes or monetary rewards. I was close to all the staff and knew of all their financial troubles, their trauma, their aspirations and their fears. My rewards came from their friendship and knowing that I was doing something meaningful; helping to bring pride and satisfaction back into their lives and see first hand the difference being valued in the workplace made to them.
I had quite a nice car, a Jaguar FX, second-hand but in lovely condition. It took me a few years and some favourable upgrades to finally have a car that was not only dependable and reliable but was comfortable and pleasant to drive.
The colour is described as gold-barley but to hear the DWP carry on about a LUXURY GOLD car, you’d think it was made of solid 22 carats – talk about making a meal of it, but that’s all part of the propaganda isn’t it; get people fired up and indignant about the inappropriate use of stolen money on a LUXURY lifestyle and GOLD in order to further their case.
I didn’t have the sunroof (wasn’t a priority). The colour is described as gold-barley but to hear the DWP carry on about a LUXURY GOLD car, you’d think it was made of solid 22 carats – talk about making a meal of it, but that’s all part of the propaganda isn’t it; get people fired up and indignant about the inappropriate use of stolen money on a LUXURY lifestyle and GOLD in order to secure their case.
I paid for this car although the finance was not in my name because I do not borrow, I don’t use credit cards and I am old-school in that if I can’t afford something, then I will go without and so I had no credit score. My old car was traded in for the deposit so nothing was taken as part of some fictitious conspiracy.
I lived (with my children) in a home close to where I’d always lived and close to my friends and those of my children. It was rented and part of it was held over for the owner of the property for storage. I could never have afforded the house otherwise and the arrangement was mutually beneficial.
It was the case of the DWP that £1.8m was defrauded from the public purse and in my case, part of that money paid for my car and my rent. My bank accounts were transparent and clearly showed no transactions other than those easily identifiable – there was no justification for their claims against me for taking part of that money.
I knew for a fact that wages were paid to all employees every month; bills were paid; overheads were covered and many, many people benefited from small bursaries paid to them due to hardship.
Ironically, even an ex-offender, who had put together a mobile theatre which was taken to schools around London and Kent ,was given the support he needed to carry on his work of demonstrating the dangers of a criminal lifestyle to youngsters and so help them steer clear of a life of crime – you gotta laugh, haven’t you!
Money also went into a charity shop in Devon – it’s still there I think.
The purpose of the venture is best explained by this banner I designed which was displayed in the window.
The organisation was determined to help all those who suffered disability, whatever the cause, as well as help families overcome the hardships caused by injury or even death.
It’s funny that the DWP did not want anything presented to the jury that might clarify the use of funds and the judge supported the prosecution by disallowing anything that might undermine the case of the DWP.
Let us return to Ms Moran for a moment. All the money she took was to satisfy her greed, to milk the system to her own benefit to the tune of more than £50,000.
At the same time that Ms Moran was avoiding court because she was ‘depressed’, I had taken an overdose of painkillers because I felt so demoralised and could not understand what exactly I was supposed to have done wrong – I took nothing. I was in hospital and then advised to check myself into hospital for psychiatric assessment.
Furthermore I had problems with my heart, suffered anxiety attacks and then was taken to hospital to have my gall bladder removed. I was sinking fast emotionally and psychologically but had to put on a brave face for my children so that they would not worry.
I was not excused going to court. I was under cardiac investigation and my judge was kind enough to have the hospital called to ensure that I was released to attend court as soon as possible – wasn’t that nice of him.
Perhaps if I had the wit to attend court dressed as dowdily as possible with a soaked tissue to my nose, I too would have been excused because attempted suicide, coronary problems and pancreatitis certainly did not qualify me from being excused.
Five days after being excused from court, being found guilty on 21 counts and being given a two year supervision order, Ms Moran was reported to be relaxing over a drink with her partner (presumably the one on whose home she spent so much public money on dry rot) at a pub and later taking to the hills walking her dog.
Where was I five days after being sentenced? Oh yes, I was in hospital having taken another overdose whilst in custody. Upon my return to prison, I was on suicide watch, monitored 24 hours a day to help ensure my safety.
Yet it’s Ms Moran who has mental issues and Ms Moran who does NOT have a criminal record and Ms Moran who can easily and wilfully go abroad to her restored farmhouse in Southern Spain any time she wishes.
I received an eight year sentence. I have served four years and am on license for a further four years during which time I have to meet with my Offender Manager who ensures that I remain on the straight and narrow, having learned my lesson. I have to disclose my criminal record for the remainder of my life which will make finding a job near on impossible; more so for a 59 year old. I have missed the first three years of my grandchildren’s lives and I cannot contemplate going with them abroad to places like Disney World in Florida.
On balance, I think Ms Moran has the best deal. I should be filled with rage and anger. Not at Ms Moran – she was lucky enough to know how to play the game or at least have enough money or the right contacts to ensure that she avoided my plight.
My anger is directed at the judiciary, the legal system, the government, the legal profession and all those who support what can only be a corrupt system.
In 1999 and again in 2000 I underwent surgery that left me in chronic pain and with nerve damage to my right leg. I have osteoporosis in my upper back and shoulders. I have nerve damage in my right hand due to carpal tunnel that has had to be ignored for the past four years. To top it off, in 2013, I had a cardiac arrest, was dead for around 6 minutes before being resuscitated and kept in an induced coma for two days. I remember nothing about it (which is probably a good thing) but find that I have little odds and sods missing from my memory; some things elude me – I didn’t even recognise my wristwatch which my children assure me I wore for quite some time before going to prison.
So what’s the purpose of writing all this? What do I want?
I want justice. I want to feel that my treatment at the hands of the judiciary is the same as that of everyone else. I use Ms Moran as a case in point because her trial was happening at the same time as mine – or close enough that it resonated. It has stuck with me, the unfairness of it all, the injustice. I want, no I NEED to know why I was treated so differently to an MP.
I could go on to the case of Camila Batmanghelidgh who received £46 million of tax-payers money, £3 million days before declaring her charity, Kid’s Company, defunct.
She continues to enjoy her life unimpeded and not under license, she has no criminal record and has not been locked away from her family for the past four years and can go abroad any time she wants. To my knowledge, no one is even asking her to pay the money back.
I can see only one common factor in these two women – their links to Westminster. One as a former MP and the other obviously involved with the former PM, David Cameron.
Is this what it takes to get a fair trial in this country?