The ruling, handed down today by the Law Lords, overturns a 1999 appeal court verdict that cleared the former Westminster council leader and her deputy David Weeks of ‘wilful misconduct’.
It means the Tesco heiress once again faces a personal surcharge along with Weeks of £27m, the amount auditors said the homes-for-votes policy cost taxpayers.
District auditor John Magill, a former Deloitte & Touche partner, had originally alleged that Dame Shirley and her colleagues were guilty of selling council homes to improve Tory chances in key marginal wards during the 1980s.
Magill was today said to be delighted with the result, and the Audit Commission praised the decision.
‘I am, of course, delighted that the House of Lords has confirmed the decision of the High Court,’ he said. ‘Both Courts unanimously concluded that the facts that I unearthed were the truth, and that Dame Shirley Porter and David Weeks had lied to me in attempting to cover-up their activities,’ he added.
‘We supported the appeal by Mr Magill because important principles were at stake,’ the Commission said today. ‘It concerned the standards of conduct of senior councillors, the appropriate use of public funds and the rights of local people to challenge the behaviour of their council,’ it said.
Lord Bingham, one of the five Law Lords that voted unanimously to throw out the Appeal Court decision, said: ‘This was a deliberate, blatant and dishonest misuse of public power.’
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