BRITAIN

Ex-wife guilty in case that toppled British minister

Former wife of disgraced British ex-minister Chris Huhne convicted of perverting the course of justice by taking penalty points on her driving licence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 12:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 12:19am

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Vicky Pryce, former wife of disgraced British ex-minister Chris Huhne, was convicted on Thursday of perverting the course of justice by taking penalty points on her driving licence in 2003 for a speeding offence he had committed.

Huhne, who resigned as energy secretary in February last year when he and Pryce were both charged over the 2003 points, had pleaded guilty to the charge on February 4.

Huhne, considered until his guilty plea a likely successor to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader, and Pryce, a former joint head of the government’s economic service, will be sentenced later. They both face jail terms.

The speeding points deception, which took place at a time when the couple were happily married, remained a family secret for eight years but came back to haunt Huhne after the acrimonious break-up of the 26-year marriage.

Huhne abruptly left Pryce in June 2010 when his long-term affair with bisexual former aide Carina Trimingham was about to be exposed in the press. Details of the trio’s private lives were splashed all over the newspapers for weeks.

Months later, Pryce told two newspapers about the 2003 points deception in an act of revenge against Huhne. The jury were shown an email from Pryce to a journalist in March 2011 in which she wrote, “I definitely want to nail him.”

The first news reports about the points incident appeared in May 2011 and police then started investigating the matter, culminating in criminal charges in February last year.

Pryce pleaded not guilty, arguing that Huhne had coerced her into taking his penalty points so he could avoid a driving ban. Huhne already had penalty points on his licence at the time while Pryce did not, so she was not at risk of a ban.

Pryce’s first trial ended last month after the jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court were unable to reach a verdict.

After a retrial, a new jury rejected Pryce’s defence of “marital coercion”, convicting her unanimously.

Huhne and Pryce had been supposed to stand trial together but his 11th-hour guilty plea on the morning the trial was due to start meant that Pryce was alone in the dock.

If so, I suspect he will be an ex-minister by Sunday lunchtime

Her trials revealed intimate and painful details of the private lives of a once happy and powerful couple. In particular, seeking to bolster her marital coercion defence by showing that in certain circumstances she could be bullied by Huhne, Pryce said he had forced her to have an abortion in 1990.

The court also heard colourful snippets from months of discussions in 2010-2011 between Pryce and journalists keen to publish a story with the potential to bring down a minister.

In one e-mail read in court, a Mail on Sunday, journalist asked an intermediary if there was “lift-off” for an article, in the form of a statement from Pryce confirming the points story.

“If so, I suspect he will be an ex-minister by Sunday lunchtime,” the journalist wrote.

 

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