A CHIEF magistrate said he was “mystified” yesterday after it emerged that former MP Denis MacShane had been given permission not to appear in court to face a charge of false accounting over expenses claims.
• Denis MacShane given permission not to appear at court over false accounting charge over expenses
• MacShane stood down as Labour MP for Rotherham last year
MacShane, 65, was due to face charges at Westminster Magistrates Court that he faked receipts to fraudulently claim £12,900 for research and translation services.
But chief magistrate Howard Riddle was told yesterday that his solicitors were not in a position to “make progress” and that MacShane was on a pre-booked holiday until 4 September.
Mr Riddle said he was “a little mystified” at how this decision had been made but said he could not overturn it.
Neither MacShane or any of his legal team turned up at court for the five-minute hearing.
Prosecutor Will Hays said: “As I understand it, there was an application to adjourn the case yesterday by Mr MacShane.
“It was considered by a district judge and a decision was taken to grant an adjournment. All that has to happen today is for a new date to be fixed.”
Mr Hays referred to a letter sent by MacShane’s solicitors and said: “It refers to the gravity and complexity of the matter and makes the submission that it may be difficult for Mr MacShane and his solicitors to make progress today.
“And he requests a hearing date to be moved until after the 4th of September when he returns from a pre-booked holiday he is due to go on at the end of August.”
Mr Riddle granted MacShane bail in his absence and ordered him to return to court on 10 September.
He is charged with one count of false accounting between 2005 and 2008.
In the absence of MacShane, Mr Riddle granted an adjournment. A new date for the case will be set when the former MP returns from holiday in September.
Police began examining MacShane’s expenses nearly three years ago after allegations about abuses surfaced but later dropped the case.
However, the investigation was reopened in the wake of a report from the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee last November.
It included letters from the former Labour minister to the standards commissioner that had not previously been seen by police.
MacShane resigned as an MP last year after a parliamentary committee said he had wrongfully claimed at least £7,500 in expenses.
Although he had repaid the money, and he insisted that he had made no personal gain, he said he was resigning to show that MPs should take responsibility for their mistakes.
MacShane, who worked for the BBC from 1969 to 1977, had been a Labour MP for Rotherham since 1994.
He was then prime minister Tony Blair’s minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005.