Isles MP Carmichael ordered to pay his own expenses
Isles MP Alistair Carmichael will have to pay a £80,000 legal bill following a ruling by election court judges on the so-called “Frenchgate” scandal.
Lawyers acting for the former Scottish Secretary asked judges Lady Paton and Lord Matthews on Monday to order Mr Carmichael’s opponents to pay the bill.
Members of the public from Mr Carmichael’s Orkney and Shetland constituency had gone to court last year to complain about the Liberal Democrat politician’s conduct during the 2015 general election.
The constituents claimed that Mr Carmichael allegedly breached the Representation of the People’s Act.
They claimed that he broke the law when he told a television journalist that he didn’t know anything about a confidential memo that had been leaked to The Daily Telegraph.
The document was leaked by Mr Carmichael’s special adviser Euan Rodden and the MP authorised the leak.
It was then used by the newspaper as the basis for a story which told of the claims surrounding the contents of a conversation between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the French ambassador to the UK.
Ms Sturgeon allegedly told the diplomat that she wanted the Tories to win the general election.
Mr Carmichael was cleared of breaching the Representation of the People’s Act in December 2015. But judges criticised his conduct.
In a written judgment Lady Paton stated: “In our opinion, however, the first respondent’s approach to the inquiry was at best disingenuous and at worst self-serving.”
Mr Carmichael’s advocate Roddy Dunlop QC returned to court today and asked the judges to order the constituents to foot his client’s legal bill.
However, judges refused the request. Lady Paton said she and Lord Matthews couldn’t find any evidence that the constituents’ claims were malicious.
She said: “Expenses are neither liable or due to any party in the case.”
Mr Dunlop had earlier told the court that Mr Carmichael wasn’t a wealthy man and it wasn’t fair for him to pay the bill because he hadn’t broken the law.
Mr Dunlop also said that the constituents had raised significant amounts of cash from crowd funding and that they didn’t have the same financial pressures as his client.
He added: “The petitioners raised a significant war chest through crowd funding. My client is not a wealthy man.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to have their cake and they shouldn’t be allowed to eat it.
“He is not a rich man. To force him to endure yet more distress – it has affected both him and his family – would be wrong.
“It would not not be in the interests of justice and it would not be fair.”
Advocate Jonathan Mitchell QC, who represented the constituents who brought the case to court, said his clients were acting in the public interest by using the legal system to hold their MP to account.
He said Mr Carmichael had showed himself to be a dishonest man who only told the truth because he had been placed on oath.
Mr Mitchell added: “There was an odd feeling that when Mr Carmichael was giving evidence it was as if he was in confession.
“He gauchely said he was he was telling the truth because he was oath and he did not want to be like Tommy Sheridan.
“Mr Carmichael is shocking, outrageous, dishonest and lacking in candour. He is also unimpressive.”
Lady Paton ruled that because there was no evidence that the constituents had brought a “vexatious” case to court, they wouldn’t have to pay Mr Carmichael’s bill.