Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce jailed for eight months
- 11 March 2013
- From the section UK
Former cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce have each been jailed for eight months for perverting the course of justice.
Huhne had admitted asking Pryce to take his speeding points to avoid losing his licence in 2003, and Pryce was convicted of having agreed to do so.
Pryce, 60, went to a newspaper with the story after their marriage broke up.
The judge said Huhne, 58, had fallen from a "great height" but any tragedy was their "own fault".
Huhne, who resigned as an MP after pleading guilty, told Channel 4 News ahead of sentencing that his actions in 2003 had spun into a "massive, devastating set of consequences for family, for career and for everything".
Sentencing the pair at Southwark Crown Court, trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney said Huhne had lied "again and again".
He told the couple: "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.
"Any element of tragedy is entirely your own fault."
During Pryce's trial, the prosecution alleged that she had chosen to take the points but later plotted to expose Huhne after he revealed he was having an affair with an aide and ended the couple's 26-year marriage.
Pryce, a prominent economist, was described as being "controlling, manipulative and devious" by the judge.
He said her "weapon of choice" - telling newspapers she took the points - had been a dangerous weapon because they had both broken the law.
And the momentum of the news story led to Pryce's "unmasking".
Mr Justice Sweeney said point-swapping was "all too easy to do" but it amounted to the serious criminal offence of perverting the course of justice.
The judge told former energy and climate change secretary Huhne he was "more culpable" for the offence.
He said: "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."
He said Huhne would have been sentenced to nine months, had it not been for his guilty plea which meant he was entitled to a "discount" on the term.
Turning to Pryce, who was sitting just a few metres apart from her ex-husband in the dock, he told the economist she had been readily persuaded to take the points.
The judge said that, unless released earlier under supervision, the pair would each serve half of their eight-month sentences.
Huhne resigned from the cabinet after being charged and as the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire after pleading guilty.
Speaking to The Times ahead of sentencing, he said: "Going to jail is a fairly small bit of the total penalty. What was really painful was losing the one job I really wanted to do. Climate change is something I care passionately about."
He added that he had hoped Pryce would be acquitted for the sake of their family. She was found guilty last week.
The breakdown of the relationship between Huhne and the couple's son Peter over the case was laid bare during Pryce's trial. Text messages between the father and son were read out in court.
Huhne told the Times: "I didn't want her to go to jail, I told the kids and everybody else that. Revenge eats you up. It does worse things to you than to the person you are attempting to attack."
Asked about the jailing of his former cabinet colleague, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's a reminder that no-one, however high and mighty, is out of the reach of the justice system."
And a spokesman for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: "As Nick has said, this is a personal tragedy for Chris, Vicky and their families.
"After their sentences are served, Nick hopes that they will both be given the time and space to rebuild their lives."
The court heard the cost of Huhne's prosecution was £79,015 and Pryce's was £38,544 - making a total of £117,558.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said the CPS was seeking to claim an extra £31,000 from Huhne for costs incurred by his attempts to get the case thrown out and the extra police investigation.
Speaking outside the court, Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge - from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate - said: "This case acts as a very timely reminder for all those people who may be facing a driving ban and are thinking of passing their points onto others.
"This is not only unlawful but, as you can see from today's events, leads to life-changing consequences."
The pair were greeted by hordes of photographers and TV cameras as they arrived at court before sentencing.
Huhne arrived with partner Carina Trimingham, whom he left Pryce for in June 2010.
Huhne and Pryce were charged last year over an incident in March 2003 when Huhne's BMW car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 between Stansted Airport in Essex and London. He was an MEP at the time.
The prosecution said that between 12 March and 21 May 2003, Pryce had falsely informed police she had been the driver of the car, so Huhne would avoid prosecution.
He was in danger of losing his licence having already accrued nine penalty points.
In mitigation, Huhne's barrister John Kelsey-Fry QC told the court: "They were his points, it was his idea to pass them to his then wife, and he persuaded her to do so when she was initially reluctant and he accepts that it was his fault. However, he did not force her, nor coerce her, nor bully her, nor was he overbearing."
He said Huhne denied the claim made during Pryce's trial that he had made her have an abortion.
Julian Knowles QC for Pryce said she had suffered a "truly tragic personal life" in the past few years and would struggle to rebuild her career.
After the case, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott issued a personal statement as "a long-standing family friend" of the pair.
"This is a personal and political tragedy. Chris was a dynamic, decisive, strategic minister - an object lesson to us all in how to fight as hard in office as in opposition for the environment, economic growth, Europe and essential liberties," he said.
Lord Oakeshott is a distant cousin of Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott, to whom Pryce first revealed details of the points swapping in 2011 after her marriage broke up.