Published: 15:10, 24 November 2020
| Updated: 15:13, 24 November 2020
Three Kent MPs have been rapped on the knuckles over a letter to a judge examining if references they wrote to support the disgraced former Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke can be made public.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, Gravesham MP Adam Holloway and Dover and Deal's Natalie Elphicke - who succeeded her husband into the position in December - were among six MPs who submitted character references to the court during Mr Elphicke’s trial.
The group has been arguing there are “matters of principle” that should be considered first by senior members of the judiciary and by Parliament.
Tomorrow newspapers including the Guardian and Times will be seeking to make the references public.
The group wrote a letter to senior judges, which was copied to the judge who will examine the case at tomorrow's hearing, expressing their concerns that publication will discourage others from providing similar details.
But the intervention triggered a critical reply from the Office of Lord Chief Justice, who told the MPs it was wrong to try and influence the decision of a judge who would rule on the basis of evidence and argument in court.
According to the Guardian newspaper, MPs were told in reply to their letter: “It is equally improper to suggest that senior judges should in some way intervene to influence the decision of another judge. The independence of the judges extends to being free from interference by judicial colleagues or superiors in their decision-making. Judges must be free to make their decision independently of pressure or influence from all, including legislators.”
Elphicke was found guilty of three charges of sexual assault against two women earlier this year and was sentenced to one year in prison. He has lodged an appeal against his conviction.