Well, well, well. I have to say, I am slightly surprised by the outcome of the expenses scandal. The high-profile stuff doesn't come anywhere near me, obviously, so I know nothing of the details, but I fully expected the usual flannel; "not enough evidence for realistic prospect of conviction, blah blah blah".
Anyway, here we are, three MPs and a peer have been charged. They are to be served with a summons to the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, which is of course their local. It's on Horseferry Road, a short walk from the Sovereign's Entrance (although I strongly doubt they'll be walking there).
The magistrates will send the matter to the Crown Court, as it is triable on indictment only (I am open to correction on this last point, as I don't have my Archbold at hand, and am guessing at the mode of trial.) There will, I imagine, be no indication of plea, and all four men will have jury trials in due course.
Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 makes it an offence to furnish information for any purpose, produce or make use of any account, or any such record or document, which to that person's knowledge is or may be misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular. This must be done dishonestly, with a view to gain for himself or another, or with intent to cause loss to another.
"Dishonesty" is according to widely prevailing standards, basically. It's called the Ghosh test, named for the reported case of the same name, funnily enough, and is pronounced with a long 'o', like a frightfully posh person saying "gosh".
The standard is that of "ordinary decent people". The phrase used to be "man on the top deck of the Clapham Omnibus", but I suppose times have changed, and such people may be more likely to relieve you of your wallet than be honest. In any event, if an act is dishonest by that standard, it is only dishonest in the Ghosh sense if the accused must have realised that what he was doing was dishonest. Then, and only then, may the jury convict.
It's not a simple definition, and as you can see, the right 'honorable' gentlemen concerned have a certain amount of wiggle room.
My learned readers will note that I haven't discussed the destruction of records part of the offence. That was a deliberate decision, based solely on a wildly uninformed guess that the facts weren't anything like that. So there.