Friday 22 September 2017

Disgraced MP and former wife jailed over speeding-points swap

Ellen Branagh

Disgraced MP Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce have been jailed for eight months – a decade to the day since the speeding offence that led to their downfall.

The former British cabinet minister was told he had fallen from a "great height" as he and his economist ex-wife were sentenced for perverting the course of justice.

The jail term, handed down at Southwark Crown Court, is the culmination of a 10-year drama after Pryce took three speeding points for her then-husband in 2003.

The 60-year-old was convicted after a retrial last week, while Huhne (58) pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial last month, a U-turn that followed months of denials and failed attempts to get the case thrown out.

The former energy secretary, who once had hopes of the Liberal Democratic party's leadership, has become the first former cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be jailed.

The former couple, who hit the headlines with their messy split in 2010, showed no emotion as they sat just feet from each other in the dock in the packed courtroom, which included Huhne's father, and his partner Carina Trimingham.

Jailing the pair, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "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."

Fault

"Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault."

The prosecution unmasked Pryce's attempts to "manipulate and control the press" to bring Huhne down, the judge said, saying she had shown a "controlling and devious side".

He told the disgraced politician: "You have fallen from a great height, albeit that that is only modest mitigation given that it is a height that you would never have achieved if you had not hidden your commission of such a serious offence in the first place."

The judge said that Huhne's lies and attempts at manipulating the legal process had not added to his sentence, nor had the way Pryce – who adopted a defence of marital coercion – conducted her case, but may be relevant when it comes to determining costs.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is trying to recoup £117,558 (€134,395) for the prosecution of the former couple – £79,015 (€90,330) for Huhne and £38,544 (€44,062) for Pryce – plus an extra £31,000 (€35,438) from Huhne for his attempts to get the case thrown out.

Costs are to be determined at a hearing at a later date.

Huhne and Pryce will wake up behind bars exactly a decade since Huhne's black BMW was clocked speeding on the M11.

With nine points already on his licence, he faced a ban so Pryce took the points.

The offence remained unknown for years until Pryce – seeking revenge after Huhne left her for Ms Trimingham in June 2010 – used the offence as the "weapon" to bring down her ex-husband.

She pursued a lengthy press campaign to "nail" the father of her children, approaching the 'Mail on Sunday', then 'The Sunday Times'.

The mother-of-five claimed Huhne twice demanded that she have abortions because of the effect on his career – a claim the disgraced MP's lawyer yesterday refuted.

Irish Independent

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