11 Mar 2013

Huhne and Pryce to be sentenced

It is widely expected that both Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce will go to prison when Mr Justice Sweeney sentences them for perverting the course of justice.

Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce will find out of they face prison on Monday (pictures: Reuters)

It is sad, in many ways, cheating the system over a minor traffic violation has led to such a tragic finale.

The sentencing guidelines for the judge include the following factors:

  • Nature and number of offences
  • Whether premeditated or spontaneous
  • Degree of persistence
  • Arrest of innocent person
  • Innocent person maliciously targeted
  • Any impact upon prosecution

Some clearly do not apply and true it was only one offence. But it was clearly premeditated.

Hollow apology?

For the former Cabinet minister, while the Lib Dems have only but praise for his political contributions, the one major unanswered question is why he lied up until the very last minute.

He may not have been on legal aid but the costly way he led the police and the prosecution down various false trails for supposed evidence to support his fallacious claim that he was simply the victim of a conspiracy to ruin his career, will not go unnoticed.

I suspect, through his lawyer in court, he will make a profuse apology to all for hiding behind a lie and for dragging his family, especially his children, through the humiliation of having their private affairs aired for all to hear.

The apology will seem somewhat hollow.

Prison term

The sweep stake as to what his prison term will be ranges from 18 months to 3 years. I think it will be at the top end. One because of the above, (a last minute plea may earn 10 per cent remission), two because of his status as someone of ‘high office’: and three because ultimately the cheating was for his benefit, not Ms Pryce.

In 1999 former chief secretary to the Treasury Jonathan Aitken got 18 months, but that was for perjury as well as perverting the course of justice.

Two years later Lord Archer got 4 years for the same two offences.

They are probably, though, not much help in predicting was Chris Huhne will get.

But any lengthy sentence will probably start in a cat B or C prison, maybe Brixton, Pentonville, or even Belmarsh, and it will be some time before he’s transferred to an open jail, possibly Ford.

Read more: Chris Huhne - the man behind the often inscrutable image

For Vicky Pryce, whatever her motives, and however untrustworthy her evidence, she will, I believe, not escape going to jail. Her sentence is unlikely to be as long as her ex’s, after all she didn’t benefit directly from the false admission to speeding.

But her reliance on a medieval law to get her out of the frame and using the court to exact revenge will not win her any favours with the judge, especially her unsubstantiated claims about the abortion, and her ex’s bullying traits.