UK

Constance Briscoe 'held Huhne and Pryce in same regard'

Constance Briscoe Image copyright PA
Image caption Constance Briscoe denies intending to pervert the course of justice

Constance Briscoe has told a court she held former minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce "in the same regard".

The barrister is accused of lying to police about how she allegedly helped Pryce reveal that she took speeding points for Huhne in 2003.

She denies three counts of intending to pervert the course of justice.

Ms Briscoe, 56 said she thought the couple, her neighbours in Clapham, south London, were both "a bit odd".

'Public interest'

Ms Briscoe told Southwark Crown Court that she came to believe Huhne was lying when he said that he had not got Pryce to take his points in 2003.

"I thought he was a hypocrite because I saw him on the telly and in the papers saying that it hadn't happened, which it had.

"I thought that he was someone in the cabinet who seemed to have one law for himself and one for others, and I took the view that it was in the public interest to give an account for what he did, I think that was a good thing."

But Ms Briscoe told the jury she stood by a statement given to police in September 2011 claiming that she viewed the couple the same, having "no preference for him or her".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce were both jailed over the speeding points case

Ms Briscoe said she had felt "conflicted" when she was first approached by police for a statement after she was claimed in a newspaper article to be "advising" Pryce.

She said she had not been keen to speak to police, adding: "I had a responsibility to the Huhne family, to the children, to Vicky and, at the same time, I wanted to do the right thing by the police."

Patrick Gibbs QC, for the defence, asked her if she had ever been paid for the stories that appeared in the newspapers. "Not a penny," she replied.

Media lawyer

Ms Briscoe gave evidence that she did not give Pryce legal advice in her dealings with the press over the story.

She told the jury she had advised Pryce to get legal advice from a specialist media lawyer, Sarah Webb.

Ms Briscoe also said Pryce had put herself in great danger by not being open with two newspapers, the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times, both of which were interested in the story.

The court heard Ms Briscoe met Pryce as the Mail and Sunday Times were preparing to publish the story but denied helping her to draw up legal agreements, saying it was not her area of expertise.

Later in the trial, Ms Briscoe broke down in tears in court as she said she could not understand why she had been arrested.

She said she wanted to continue to give evidence rather than take a short break because "the sooner this is over for me the better".

Ms Briscoe is also a part-time judge; she has been suspended since her arrest in October 2012.

She is alleged to have provided police with two inaccurate statements about her role as an intermediary between Pryce and reporters, producing an altered copy of a statement and getting a document expert to view the wrong version of the statement.

Originally due to be a prosecution witness at the pair's trial, she was deemed not to be a reliable or truthful witness after, it is alleged, she intentionally misled the investigation about her role in helping Pryce.

Former Energy Secretary Huhne and economist Pryce were jailed last year for perverting the course of justice. Both have since been released from prison.

Ms Briscoe's trial continues.

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