Video: British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne resigns from Cabinet after being charged over speeding points
CHRIS Huhne has resigned as British Energy Secretary after being charged alongside his ex-wife Vicky Pryce with perverting the course of justice over speeding cover-up allegations.
Mr Huhne and Miss Pryce have both been charged with the same offence amid allegations that he asked her to take speeding points on his behalf.
They will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court on February 16th.
The pair now face the prospect of a criminal trial over allegations that they conspired to pervert the course of justice. The offence carries a maximum life sentence.
This morning, less than an hour after the charges were announced by the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS), Mr Huhne resigned from his position as Energy Secretary.
He said: "I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight them in the courts and I am confident a jury will agree. So as to avoid any distratction to my official duties or my trial defence, I am standing down as Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I will of course continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh. That is all I have to say."
The alleged offence is said to have taken place in March 2003 and is unlikely to have ever come to the attention of the police had Miss Pryce, who separated from Mr Huhne in 2010, not made allegations in a Sunday newspaper last year.
She told the Sunday Times that Mr Huhne had asked someone “close to him” to take the points so he could avoid a driving ban. It later emerged she was apparently referring to herself.
Following an eight-month investigation by Essex Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced this morning that there was sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, made the announcement live on television.
He said: "We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against both 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 Ms Pryce had been the driver of the vehicle in question, and she falsely accepted that she was the driver."
Government sources said that the decision to charge Mr Huhne spells the end of his Cabinet career.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg are said to be in agreement that Mr Huhne will be now be removed from post, despite him insisting he will fight to prove his innocence.
Initially it was suggested that Mr Huhne believed he could survive in post regardless of today’s decision, however it is understood he is now resigned to leaving the Cabinet.
No other Cabinet minister in recent times has faced the potential of such a serious criminal charge.
Today’s decision to charge the pair follows a protracted eight-month police investigation and brings an end to a long-running saga which began in May last year.
Miss Pryce, who separated from Mr Huhne in June 2010 following his affair with aide Carina Trimingham, told the Sunday Times that her husband had asked “someone” to take his penalty points following a speeding offence in March 2003.
It later transpired that the “someone” was allegedly Miss Pryce.
Since then the pair have been interviewed twice by detectives from Essex Police.
The force gathered a dossier of evidence against the pair including a sworn affidavit that Miss Pryce made to the Sunday Times in which she made her allegations.
Police also seized from the newspaper a tape recording between Miss Pryce and Mr Huhne during which they allegedly discussed the claims.
Officers also obtained text messages between Mr Huhne and his son Peter in which they are believed to have referred to the case.
Last month Essex Police received emails from The Sunday Times in which Miss Pryce discussed the case with a journalist on the newspaper.
The speeding incident at the centre of the allegations is said to have occurred on March 12, 2003.
Mr Huhne, who was then an MEP, had returned from the European Parliament, catching a flight from Strasbourg to Stansted which landed at 10.23pm.
At the same time Miss Pryce is said to have been at a dinner in Central London, meaning it would have been unlikely she could have been in Essex when the car was clocked speeding later that evening.
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP who prompted the police investigation by making an official complaint to Essex Police about the speeding offence, said: "I am very pleased that the police and Crown Prosecution Service have taken my complaint seriously.
"These are very serious charges. This is a criminal offence and it is right and proper that we see justice."