After the lengthy Parliamentary recess and the Legg Audit the Sunlight Centre has launched itself back into the planned Private Prosecution against the former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. A profile of the Sunlight Centre and an interview with Chris Galley were featured in today’s Independent. Below are some extracts and quotes from Mr Galley’s interview.
While her apology was ordered by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, the seven-month investigation into her use of expenses began after a complaint from the pro-transparency group, the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics. It alleged that by wrongly listing her sister’s London property as her main home, she was able to claim £116,000 for her constituency home in Redditch. When the complaint was upheld, the centre’s director, one Chris Galley, was delighted.
He insists that the fact that he again finds himself pitted against Ms Smith is not the actions of an embittered former employee, but is purely a coincidence. "It just happens to be her," he said. "We will only go after MPs who we think have serious questions to answer."
Mr Galley is not letting Ms Smith off with an apology. The institute is now putting pressure on her to pay back more than £42,000 in expenses it says she claimed after 2007, when she began spending even more time in Redditch.
"It’s for things like patio heaters," Mr Galley said. And he has an even more ambitious plan to bring down his former boss – he is attempting to launch a private prosecution against her over her expenses claims.
"These things are always expensive, but hopefully we can get this to court," he said.
"If we can do that, I am quite happy that a jury would be convinced that there is a case to answer."
The stakes are high. If the case even makes it into the judicial system, it would be hugely embarrassing not only for Ms Smith, but for all MPs desperately hoping to move on from the expenses scandal.
"We are hoping to use this as a test case that others will be able to use against more MPs in the future… who are guilty of acting unscrupulously," Mr Galley said. He has raised about £15,000 for the "Bring Jacqui to Justice" campaign, but needs around £100,000 to proceed with the prosecution.