Natalie Elphicke says claims she lobbied justice secretary over ex-husband's trial are 'nonsense'

Accusations MP Natalie Elphicke lobbied the justice secretary in 2020 to interfere in her then-husband's sex offences trial are "nonsense", her spokesperson has said.

It is claimed the Dover MP, who recently defected from Conservative to Labour, approached Sir Robert Buckland when he was lord chancellor and justice secretary before the hearing of Charlie Elphicke's case.

The Sunday Times reported that she allegedly told Sir Robert that it was unfair the case was the first to be heard at Southwark Crown Court after the COVID lockdown and that it was being overseen by Lady Justice Whipple.

One person present viewed her comments as a bid to have the case moved to a lower-profile court to spare her partner public scrutiny, while another saw it as an attempt to replace the senior judge, according to the newspaper.

Sir Robert reportedly told the paper he rejected her plea, suggesting his intervention could undermine the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers between parliament and the judiciary.

"She was told in no uncertain terms that it would have been completely inappropriate to speak to the judge about the trial at all," Sir Robert said in a statement.

In a statement responding to the claims, also published in The Mail on Sunday, a spokesman for Ms Elphicke said: "This is nonsense.

"It's certainly true that Mr Elphicke continued to be supported after his imprisonment by a large number of Conservative MPs who had known him for a long time, including some who visited him and independently lobbied on his behalf, which was nothing to do with Natalie."

A Labour Party spokesman said Ms Elphicke "totally rejects that characterisation of the meeting".

"If Robert Buckland had any genuine concerns about the meeting, then he should have raised them at the time, rather than making claims to the newspapers now Natalie has chosen to join the Labour Party," the spokesman said.

Ms Elphicke's former husband and predecessor as MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, was convicted in 2020 of sexually assaulting two women and jailed for two years.

She ended the marriage after his conviction but supported his unsuccessful appeal, saying Mr Elphicke had been "attractive, and attracted to women" and "an easy target for dirty politics and false allegations".

Ms Elphicke allegedly also tried to secure him better prison conditions, asking for more comfortable pillows, The Sunday Times reported, something she also denied.

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What happens when an MP defects to another party?

Following news of Ms Elphicke's defection this week, Labour MPs raised concerns about the decision to admit her to the party, citing her comments about Mr Elphicke's case and his victims.

In a statement on Thursday, she said she condemned "his behaviour towards other women and towards me", adding it was "right that he was prosecuted" and she was "sorry for the comments that I made about his victims".