Minister resigns and faces trial on charge of perverting justice
CHRIS Huhne became the first British cabinet minister in living memory to be charged with a serious criminal offence yesterday after the fallout from his acrimonious divorce left him facing court, a potential jail sentence and the end of his career.
The Energy Secretary was forced to resign within minutes of the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that he had been charged with perverting the course of justice.
Mr Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, have both been charged with the same offence after it was alleged that she agreed to accept speeding points on behalf of her then husband.
The charges carry a maximum life sentence, although legal precedent suggests that a guilty verdict would probably lead to a prison sentence of less than two years.
Mr Huhne, a Liberal Democrat, faces a court showdown with his ex-wife, whose allegations about the incident prompted the police investigation.
The claims first emerged last year at the height of a bitter divorce, after Mr Huhne had left Ms Pryce for one of his aides, Carina Trimingham.
The speeding charge dates back to 2003 and the CPS decided to charge Mr Huhne after police seized emails between his ex-wife and a journalist.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Huhne declared his innocence and vowed to clear his name. Last night, Ms Pryce, a prominent economist, said she hoped for a "quick resolution" to the case.
Prime Minister David Cameron was informed by Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, at 9.10am yesterday that Mr Huhne was to be charged.
In a televised press conference at 10am, Kier Starmer, the country's chief prosecutor, said: "All the available evidence, including the new material, has now been carefully considered by the CPS and we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Mr Huhne and Miss Pryce for perverting the course of justice.
"The essence of the charges is that, between March and May 2003, Mr Huhne, having allegedly committed a speeding offence, falsely informed the investigating authorities that Miss Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver. They are due to appear in court on February 16."
Within an hour, Mr Huhne announced his resignation outside the £1m house he shares with his partner, Carina Trimingham.
He said: "I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts. So as to avoid any distraction to either my official duties or my defence, I am standing down, resigning, as Energy Secretary. " (© Daily Telegraph, London)