11 Mar 2013

Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce sent to prison

Disgraced former minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce are both sentenced to eight months for perverting the course of justice.

The former MP’s ex-wife had taken speeding points on his behalf but claimed he stood over her and forced her to sign the papers, saying she was driving at the time. The court rejected her plea last Friday.

Huhne, wearing a dark suit and tie, remained motionless as he became the first former cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be sent to prison.

Pryce, who wore a black jacket over a silver-grey top, also showed no emotion as she was sent to prison in front of a packed courtroom, which included Huhne’s father and partner Carina Trimingham.

Sentencing them, trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney said Huhne had lied “again and again”. He told Pryce she had a “controlling, manipulative and devious side”.

And he told the former couple: “To the extent that anything good has come out of this whole process, it is that now, finally, you have both been brought to justice for your joint offence. Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault.”

Barrister and part-time judge Constance Briscoe may now face charges for allegedly lying to police over the story. Ms Briscoe was dropped as a prosecution witness after evidence appeared to show she helped Pryce leak the story to the media, despite telling police she had not spoken to journalists.

Prosecution costs

The court heard how the cost of prosecuting Huhne for the CPS was almost £79,000 while Pryce cost £38,000. There were additional police costs of £31,000 due to extra investigations as Huhne attempted to stay proceedings.

Huhne could face a large legal bill after the CPS announced plans to recoup the costs of his challenges against the prosecution before his last-minute guilty plea.

Judge Nigel Sweeney had granted Pryce bail last Friday but warned she should have “no illusions” about her possible sentence. Perverting the course of justice carries a sentence from four months to three years in jail.

Caught speeding

The case has brought an end to Huhne’s political career, forcing him to stand down as energy secretary. He resigned as an MP after his guilty plea.

The allegations are from 2003 when Huhne’s BMW was caught speeding on camera travelling from Stansted airport. The then MEP had nine points on his licence and feared that being banned could prevent him securing the Lib Dem nomination for Eastleigh.

Despite Vicky Pryce taking the points Huhne lost his licence later that year for talking on a mobile phone while driving. He was nominated for Eastleigh and went on to win the seat in 2005.

Lib Dem reaction

Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable have denied suggestions in emails released after the trial from Pryce to Sunday Times Political Editor Isabel Oakeshott that they knew about the scandal.

Vince Cable today denied that he had known that Pryce had taken her husband’s points. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he said: “Neither my wife nor myself knew about the evidence that has emerged in this trial.

“The whole story is unbelievably sad – two very talented people who have done themselves great damage and their family is wrecked. That’s the real tragedy of all this.”