A very Pyrrhic victory
March 11, 2013 12:33 PM   Subscribe

9 years and 364 days ago, the then MEP (and later cabinet minister), Chris Huhne caught a flight back from Brussels to London Stansted, landing at 10.27pm. He picked up his car, with the distinctive number plate H11HNE, and sped back to his home in Clapham, South London, setting in motion a chain of events that would ultimately see him and his wife, economist Vicky Pryce, each sentenced to 8 months in jail.

A tragedy in several parts:

The players

Chris Huhne: former Guardian journalist, entrepreneur, Member of the European Parliament for South East England (1999-2005), Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh (2005-2013), former Energy Secretary, cabinet minister and one-time contender for leader of the Liberal Democrats; married to Vicky Pryce (1984-2011).

Vicky Pryce: former Joint Head of the United Kingdom's Government Economic Service (2007-2010), visiting professor at City University's Cass Business School (2002-2006, 2008-2011) and Imperial College Business School (2010-) and Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford (2008-), senior managing director at the finance consultancy firm FTI Consulting (2010-); married to Chris Huhne (1984-2011).

Isabel Oakeshott: Political Editor at the Sunday Times; 3rd cousin of Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott.

Constance Briscoe: barrister, and one of England's earliest black female judges; Clapham neighbour of Vicky Pryce.

Carina Trimingham: former journalist and Liberal Democrat press aide, Director of the Electoral Reform Society; Chris Huhne's lover (2008?-).

The crime

Driving towards London, Chris Huhne's car was photographed driving at 69mph in a 50mph zone on the 12th March 2003. Huhne already had 9 points on his licence. A further motoring offence would see him lose his licence and possibly jeopardise his election prospects. Huhne persuaded his then wife, Vicky Pryce, to complete official forms to the effect that she was driving, thereby taking the points and the fine. Ironically, Huhne would lose his licence in December 2003 for driving while using a mobile phone.

The affair

In June 2010, five weeks after the General Election, Carina Trimingham left her civil partner for Huhne following the exposure of their affair by the now defunct News of the World. Huhne also told his wife he was leaving her. The affair attracted significant publicity, especially from the Daily Mail, which published more than 65 articles about Huhne's bisexual lover. Trimingham sued the newspaper for harassment but lost, subsequently withdrew her High Court appeal and was ordered to pay legal costs of £400,000.

The revenge

In March 2011, Vicky Pryce met with journalist Isabel Oakeshott and exchanged a series of emails discussing how to treat the story. Pryce's aim was to reveal Huhne had got someone else to take his speeding conviction without revealing it was her. Having consulted with neighbour Constance Briscoe, Pryce subsequently revealed much more to the Mail on Sunday, which ultimately led to the revelation she had, in fact, taken the points. Huhne was questioned by police in May 2011 but denied the allegations. On February 3rd 2012, Chris Huhne resigned as Energy Secretary upon learning he would face charges of perverting the course of justice. Vicky Pryce would also face the same charges. The pair appeared before magistrates on February 16th 2012. On June 1st, Pryce pleaded not guilty with a defence of marital coercion - an old and now controversial law that was scheduled for abolishment in 1977. Briscoe was arrested in October 2012 for lying to the police about her role in speaking to the media and could face trial

The trials

After months of denying the charges, Huhne surprised observers at his trial on the 4th February 2013 by admitting guilt for perverting the course of justice. He had, however, put in a failed application to stay the proceedings as an abuse of process of the court, as well as an application to dismiss the case. Sentencing was delayed until Vicky Pryce's trial was completed.

Vicky Pryce's first trial began on the 5th February 2013. By then, it had emerged that Huhne's family was no longer talking to him. The last text message exchange between Huhne and his youngest son, Peter, ends "Don't text me you fat piece of shit." As part of her defence of marital coercion, Pryce revealed during proceedings that Huhne had pressured her into an abortion in 1990. And that in 1992 she had refused, giving birth to their son Peter. Pryce's trial ended in farce on the 20th February 2013 as, at the 11th hour, the jury asked 10 rather important questions. The jury reached deadlock after asking the 10 questions that suggested they were “struggling” with the most “basic concept” of trial by jury. The trial judge said he had “never come across” such a response from a jury in nearly 30 years of working in criminal courts.

Pryce's second trial ended on the 7th March 2013. She was found guilty.

The sentences

On the 11th March 2013, Huhne and Pryce were both sentenced to 8 months in jail for perverting the course of justice. Pryce was described as "controlling, manipulative and devious." Huhne was told Huhne he had "fallen from a great height" but had only reached such heights in his career through his deception.

The aftermath

Both Huhne and Pryce will initially spend time in a London prison before transferral to an open jail. Huhne also faces costs of up to £110,000 while Pryce faces costs of £38,000.

Huhne's Eastleigh seat was fought as a by election on the 28th February 2013. In a highly contested election, the Liberal Democrats retained their seat. UKIP came second. The Conservatives, who had hoped to win the seat, called it "disappointing."
posted by MuffinMan (83 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. This is exactly like an episode of Midsomer Murders except without any decapitations.
posted by selfnoise at 12:43 PM on March 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Isabel Oakeshott: Political Editor at the Sunday Times; daughter of Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott.

I think they're rather more distantly related than that, 2nd cousins or something like that.
posted by atrazine at 12:44 PM on March 11, 2013


That we know of...
posted by kmz at 12:44 PM on March 11, 2013


As almost always, it's not the crime that gets people but the coverup.
posted by jaduncan at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Great post, but my only questions are:

1) How much did all this wind up costing the taxpayers?
2) and was it really "worth it" (for varying amounts of worth)?
3) does the average public give a flip or is this just more celebrity-like front page gossip for the masses?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:48 PM on March 11, 2013


My favourite piece of trivia from this is that one of his predecessors in the riding of Eastleigh, Stephen Milligan, was found dead in his flat, apparently self-strangled by the use of an electrical cord during an act of autoerotic asphyxiation.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:49 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


atrazine: my bad: mods: if you could set the record straight and amend to "3rd cousin of Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott" I'd be grateful.

Damn my fact checking.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:50 PM on March 11, 2013


Yes but isn't it only the controlling and devious who become successful? But just for his driving he's a jack ass.
posted by Napierzaza at 12:50 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much did all this wind up costing the taxpayers?

That's now how the law is supposed to work.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:51 PM on March 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think what the jury failed to understand was the difference between speculation and inference. It's not exactly a subtle distinction--speculation adds things you can't tell from inference--but an extreme interpretation of "speculation" would suggest that every hypothesis is a speculation, even if you eliminate it in the process of reasoning.

We need court-appointed logicians.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:51 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's now how the law is supposed to work.

Exactly this. So tired of everything being subject to a "but how much did this cost the taxpayers" litmus test. Sure, cost can be a factor, but on this side of the pond it's become the only factor.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:55 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


KokuRyyu- with an orange in his mouth no less IIRC.
posted by Gratishades at 12:55 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


atrazine: my bad: mods: if you could set the record straight and amend to "3rd cousin of Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott" I'd be grateful.

Ah ha! The story involves another cover up. How many months can we send cortex away for this one?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:56 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, eight months. But the financial Masters of the Universe took down the whole global economy and got...not even an investigation?
posted by notsnot at 12:56 PM on March 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


not even an investigation?

"Jeez, what's a guy gotta do to get indicted around here?"
posted by spacewrench at 1:01 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much did all this wind up costing the taxpayers?

£148,000, excluding the cost of the by election.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2013


[Oakeshott detail amended on condition of negotiated clemency for past mod crimes, please carry on.]
posted by cortex at 1:04 PM on March 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is exactly why I take public transportation.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:07 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The part of this that caught my attention was the cracking open of the jury deliberation process. Anyone who thinks these jury questions are "extraordinary" is a fool; juries don't know what they're doing, don't understand the instructions given to them, and argue about all kinds of things only tangentially related to the issues they're actually meant to decide. I do not believe in trial by jury because I think that a "jury of my peers" cannot be trusted to agree on the color of the sky in three tries.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:10 PM on March 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh what a tangled web we weave...

Excellent post.
posted by Jehan at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone I follow on Twitter just pointed this out to me.

Screenshot in case it disappears.
posted by vacapinta at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


Personalised numberplate=total arse. Hangings too good for him.
posted by Damienmce at 1:22 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not believe in trial by jury because I think that a "jury of my peers" cannot be trusted to agree on the color of the sky in three tries.

To paraphrase a famous line, trial by jury is the worst system of justice except for all the others that have been tried.
posted by echo target at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't tell if there was something special about Pryce's trial that made juridical standards and procedures so hard to grok for the jury. And I now realize that fact is sort of ironic. I'm writing a letter to Mr Justice Sweeney right now.
posted by clockzero at 1:27 PM on March 11, 2013


What.

This is why I never leave the house.
posted by trip and a half at 1:33 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


He had, however, put in a failed application to stay the proceedings as an abuse of process of the court,

Can anyone explain this for us non-Brits? Is this common in English law, and what could the grounds for this be? To my American IANAL ears it sounds obscure and iffy.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:34 PM on March 11, 2013


I read this:

married to Vicky Pryce (1984-2011)

And conflated the marriage dates with a set of birth and death dates. Which proved confusing when I read that Ms. Pryce appeared in court in 2012. Then when I looked at the dates again my first thought was, wow, she must have been something to get so much done in such a short life.

Then i realized that in all probability I need coffee.
posted by mwhybark at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


benito.strauss - it's all explained here

Abuse of process

Counsel for Huhne argued that a fair trial was not possible because:

- It was 8 years after the event that Huhne was first confronted with the allegation
- The section 172 forms (which identify the driver of the vehicle) were no longer available
- Adverse press publicity, including a YouGov poll recording that 60% of those questioned believed Mr Huhne to be guilty
- Some other issues that cannot yet be reported
posted by MuffinMan at 1:38 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: "Don't text me you fat piece of shit."
posted by ericb at 1:41 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What disgusting people. I don't care how much you hate your ex-spouse, revealing in court that he wanted to abort your now-grown child? That is just repulsive. Grow the fuck up, assholes.
posted by something something at 1:49 PM on March 11, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wow. This is exactly like an episode of Midsomer Murders except without any decapitations.
posted by selfnoise at 8:43 PM on March 11 [3 favorites +] [!]

This scandal and plebgate share the same veneer of amusing patheticness slathered over very dark substance. In some way very British - subdued and slightly naff. It's a grand machievillian tale about the fall from grace of devious tyrant...over by a minor driving offence.
posted by Erberus at 1:51 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


In Britain, some people become politicians out of a sense of vocation, a craving for social justice, perhaps, or an idea that government should shrink and afford greater liberty to the individual. The other 97% are fucking wankers though.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:04 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Britain, some people become politicians out of a sense of vocation, a craving for social justice, perhaps, or an idea that government should shrink and afford greater liberty to the individual.

Sounds good, so how could anyone think that having a personalised number plate on his car is compatible with any of that?

HIIHNE. On a black BMW? Not voting for you, mate.
posted by colie at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


That list of questions from the jury is terrifying: "Does the defendant have an obligation to present a defence?" and "Can you define what is reasonable doubt?" Do juries in the UK not receive instructions from the judge prior to deliberation? I'll grant that these questions are complex and that there's a lot of debate how courts should explain these issues, but I'm used to a system where a basic explanation on the law and the system is provided to each juror. See, for instance, one of the California model instructions on reasonable doubt.

At least in my California experience, juries get to take back a copy of the instructions (which are usually pretty lengthy) to their deliberations. If a jury asked "what is reasonable doubt," the judge would probably just refer them back to the appropriate instruction.
posted by zachlipton at 2:16 PM on March 11, 2013


I do not believe in trial by jury because I think that a "jury of my peers" cannot be trusted to agree on the color of the sky in three tries.

I have somewhat more confidence in the English jury system than the American one. In the US, the first amendment basically means no sub judice, and the tradeoff for that is usually a much broader jury pool and greater liberty on both sides to toss out potential jurors with any kind of clue. There's also the small matter that American jurors in high-profile trials may be spending their time in court thinking about the live post-verdict interview with Nancy Grace.

That this was the first time in the judge's 30-year career that he'd needed to discharge a jury for HERP DERP isn't too bad a ratio.
posted by holgate at 2:17 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


What disgusting people. I don't care how much you hate your ex-spouse, revealing in court that he wanted to abort your now-grown child? That is just repulsive. Grow the fuck up, assholes.

Yeah, I thought that was the tragic aspect of this case. Two careers ruined and a family broken apart. Terrible.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:31 PM on March 11, 2013


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posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Should I take this to MetaTalk instead?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a fantastically constructed post about a weird story that could be a metaphor for so much of our current time and place.

So I feel bad even worse is that as I try to put together a coherent response, all I can think is "Assholes, assholes, all the way down."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2013


I'm lost and scared. Hold me someone.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2013


In the US, the first amendment basically means no sub judice

That sub judice thing is just so...reasonable. It would help with one of my (many) problems with the American legal system: how someone's name can be dragged through the mud prior to an acquittal, unjustly inflicting some of the harm that a true guilty verdict would bring. The again, wouldn't it make it harder for a defendant to raise money to mount a defense (in the small number of cases where that might be a possible)?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:43 PM on March 11, 2013


69mph in a 50mph zone

That's 112km/h in an 80km/h zone, in case anyone else was wondering.

(Which raises the question of why Britain is still on miles in this day and age. What are they, American?)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:47 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


colie: "HIIHNE. On a black BMW? Not voting for you, mate."

What're the odds he moved the screw so it looked like?

HI.IHNE
posted by Auz at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I've learned that in the UK a personalized license plate is much more a sign of spoiled privilege than in the U.S. (In the U.S. it's more likely to be a middle-aged women telling you she LUVSKATZ). Also, the texts from the son are brutal:

(1) “We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on Mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You’ve told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?”

(2) “I have no intention of sending Mum to Holloway Prison for three months. Dad”

(3) “Are you going to accept your responsibility or do I have to contact the police and tell them what you told me?”

(4) “Discuss it with Mum”

(5) “It’s not about her its about your accepting your responsibility to me”

(6) “Happy to talk about it with you. Dad”
posted by benito.strauss at 2:59 PM on March 11, 2013


That this was the first time in the judge's 30-year career that he'd needed to discharge a jury for HERP DERP isn't too bad a ratio.

You have to give the jury some slack here, since this wasn't a case hinging on physical facts but solely on the mental state of the defendant a decade ago. As the article puts it:

"Unusually, the judge ruled that the burden of proving coercion lay not with the defence, as is usual, because of conflict with article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 on "presumption of innocence". So it was up to the prosecution to prove coercion did not exist."

That sounds like an impossibly high bar for the prosecution to clear, and so it doesn't seem surprising that the jury is asking for clarification on everything.
posted by Pyry at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2013


That list of questions from the jury is terrifying

This was a hung jury. The questions seem, pretty plainly to me, to be the result of some sort of argument between jury members. You can imagine how it went: "No, it's not what 'reasonable doubt' means. Oh for fuck's sake! Fine, we'll ask the judge!"

Referring people back to a written instruction seems unlikely to have resolved the situation.
posted by howfar at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Top tip: It is never a good idea to tell the papers that you committed a crime, not even if it will get your ex in trouble as well.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jeremy Clarkson next I hope.
posted by longbaugh at 3:24 PM on March 11, 2013


Great Britain frightens me in ways I cannot fully articulate.
posted by gkhan at 3:28 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great Britain frightens me in ways I cannot fully articulate.

The island?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:32 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The island?

No man is an island. Not even a British one.
posted by Twain Device at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2013


Jeremy Clarkson next I hope.

I think you are going to be looking at the post-Savile shitstorm for your next big celebrity trials, and I can't see Clarkson being involved in that.
posted by biffa at 3:47 PM on March 11, 2013


No man is an island. Not even a British one.

But we're definitely not a piece of the continent, nor a part of the main, if that's what you're suggesting. We may moan about influxes from the new Europe, but the real uproar would start if we had to apply for a visa to visit the Costa del Sol.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:50 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole case has been the classic slow-motion car crash: you know you shouldn't watch, but you just can't look away. I love the fact that Vicky Pryce's company, GoodCorporation, specialises in business ethics and reputation management. (According to its blurb: "GoodCorporation helps its clients to protect their most valuable asset – good reputation. The cost of protecting reputation is priceless.")

Richard Moorhead's analysis of the first trial was spot-on, I thought:

Some of the questions look odd but there may be reasonable explanations which do not suggest a jury having lost a fundamental grip. One possibility is that the more eyebrow-raising questions reflected points being made within the jury room by one, or a small number of, members of the jury that the rest were seeking to deal with.

Not all the questions were stupid. It was perfectly sensible of the jury to ask for a clarification of 'reasonable doubt'. It wasn't very helpful of the judge to reply that 'a reasonable doubt is a doubt that is reasonable'.

Anyone as fascinated with the case as I am will want to take the time to read the full email correspondence between Vicky Pryce and Isabel Oakeshott, an object-lesson in 'never trust a journalist'. As Nick Cohen points out in the Spectator today, Pryce would never have been tried, let alone convicted, if Rupert Murdoch and his minions hadn't shopped her to the police.
posted by verstegan at 3:51 PM on March 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


having a personalised number plate on his car is compatible with any of that?

I'm with benito.strauss -- this must be a culture thing, as in the US personalized plates are cheap ($50 in California) and much more of a middle class marker than an upper class one.

I think of them as tacky kitsch things, and never see them on actual expensive cars (which I see a lot of in LA). More minivans and SUVs than BMWs and Maseratis.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:52 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


much more of a middle class marker than an upper class one.

It's not so much a class marker in the UK. More a marker of being a massive (word that I've learned not to use in front of Americans, due to another cultural difference).
posted by howfar at 4:53 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personalized number plates are not upper class in the UK. They are 'vulgar'. I have heard them described as middle class tattoos. Though of course tattoos are complex signifiers now. It indicates Huhn is a twerp.
posted by communicator at 4:56 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


To expand a bit, the point about personalised number plates is that they're flashy and aspirational. They're not an "upper class" marker, because "upper class" in Britain still has relatively little to do with wealth. Rather they are looked down on, because they are taken to indicate a desire to increase one's social status. The British are snobbish about no-one more viciously than we are snobbish about a snob.

On preview I see communicator has made a similar point. Ah well, let a thousand (closely related) flowers bloom.
posted by howfar at 5:00 PM on March 11, 2013


In the UK vanity number plates are often sold by auction. Some recent results here and here:

AN11 STA, £130
AC55 NDY, £130
PA12 MAR, £23,100
I7O, £15,000
I NSK, £11,400

It's certainly not uncommon, in London, to see fancy sports cars with custom number plates - but then, if you're driving a £100,000+ sports car you probably aren't embarrassed about flaunting your wealth.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:03 PM on March 11, 2013


I found out about this case via the browser headline leading me to Never Talk to the Press
A journalist explains. "I have used those ghastly, mendacious, yet deliciously tempting words. I have said: 'It would be great to hear your side of the story.' What is meant by these words, and what anyone who says them means, is that it would be great for other people to hear your side of the story. But it will not be great for you. Oh no"
posted by shothotbot at 5:11 PM on March 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've not lived in the UK for a few years, so this may have changed, but one big difference with personalized plates in the UK is that you can't just think up some combination of letters and numbers and apply to the DMV - you have to find and acquire some previously issued plate that makes some sense. And there are enough (insert expletive here) who want to do this that it is a fairly expensive pastime.
posted by pascal at 5:12 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


6. Can you define reasonable doubt?

The judge said: "A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable, these are ordinary English words that the law doesn't allow me to help you with beyond the written directions I have already given."


I'm just sitting here chuckling.
posted by limeonaire at 5:16 PM on March 11, 2013


Also, the texts from the son are brutal:
(5) “It’s not about her its about your accepting your responsibility to me”

(6) “Happy to talk about it with you. Dad”

I want to shake the hand of that kid's therapist.
posted by shothotbot at 5:18 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The island ?

The Island.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:28 PM on March 11, 2013


6. Can you define reasonable doubt?

The judge said: ...


See, in my book that judge is a bit of a twat. He's ignoring the hundreds, maybe thousands, of ordinary English words that do have a specialized meaning in the law. He's saying the polite, passive-agressive version of "doy". It'd be just as easy to respond "The phrase 'reasonable doubt' has no particular legal meaning beyond the way it is used in ordinary speech".
posted by benito.strauss at 5:32 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


I made the mistake of joining the Lib Dems about a year before the election and even considered standing as a councillor. In the year before the general election I met both Huhne and Clegg in relation to work and was motivated to donate some cash to party funds. I have since made it clear to the party that their post-coalition policies means they will not be getting any more. I won't be getting any money back but thanks to Chris Huhne now I can laugh about it. Thanks Chris!
posted by biffa at 5:34 PM on March 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


in my book that judge is a bit of a twat

Yes, of course, but I'm also sitting here chuckling just like limeonaire because I'm hearing that line in John Cleese's voice.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:38 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


"ordinary English words" is, oddly enough, a phrase so commonly found in superior court judgments that it almost constitutes a legal term of art in itself. A little consideration of that fact might have helped the judge to express himself more politely.
posted by howfar at 5:44 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stansted man, it is always f*cking Stansted that gets you in the end, doesn't it.

But seriously, in desi Anglophone circles, a lot of us have been looking at this case with admiration. In general, you see the maximum amount of corruption and subversion of the state by junior partners in a coalition government; these guys know their time in the sun is short, so try to get as much personal shit done as possible. And they've traditionally been too delicate to touch; the ruling majority partner would need the minority partner's support to govern, and generally excuse their excesses. Absolutely stunning, thrilling even, to see politicians being docked for speeding, and their ex-spouses for lying; this is how it should be.
posted by the cydonian at 5:57 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


you have to find and acquire some previously issued plate that makes some sense.

Thus. I always tend to associate it with 70s popular entertainers like Jimmy Tarbuck (COM 1C), Paul Daniels (MAG 1C) and Jimmy Savile, whose Roller was sold for a pretty penny to someone who planned to hire it out for weddings and children's parties. Ooops.
posted by holgate at 6:31 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


The questions are an interesting mix for sure. I mean, laugh all you want if you like, but when you consider even this answer:
Q1. Please provide examples of what may fall within the defence of martial coercion, specifically 'will was overborne’ and does the defence require violence or physical threat?
Answer: “The pressure applied by the husband need not involve violence or physical threats. The law requires that a husband was present and coercion was to such an extent that she was impelled to commit an offence because she truly believed she had no real choice.”
...followed by this one:
Q8. Can we speculate about the events at the time Miss Pryce sent the form or what was in her mind when she sent the form?
Answer: “No. In a criminal trial no one must speculate … speculation is guesswork.”
...I know I can muster at least a little sympathy for the members of the jury in trying to suss out a common-sense understanding in which those two statements are sensible together.

If I had to dare to speculate at the proceedings some of the jury were of the opinion the marital coercion would apply and others were not, and many of the questions seemed earnestly fishing around for ways to do some tie-breaking on a particular difficult exercise in applied epistemology.
posted by hoople at 6:33 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you just get a fine in the mail for speeding, and it's on a route you frequently drive on (multiple times per day) and you and your partner take turns with the driving, it is possible you wouldn't know who actually incurred the fine. Obviously this wasn't the case here, but I'm wondering what you are supposed to do in that circumstance. (It happened to me, and in our case I took the fine because my husband wanted to keep his blemish-free driving record, and we honestly don't know which of us was driving.)
posted by lollusc at 7:13 PM on March 11, 2013


[Oakeshott detail amended on condition of negotiated clemency for past mod crimes, please carry on.]
no plea bargains in England.
posted by anadem at 7:45 PM on March 11, 2013


Aside from the pressuring his wife into taking the points, which is bad, and the personalised numberplate, which as already mentioned is very much the marker of a particularly vain and snobbish sort of dickhead, and is also bad, it's his texts to his son which are the worst. He replies to every one of them in the same way that he would to a grilling on Newsnight he'd can't really be arsed with. It's one thing to contemptuously spout evasive non-answers to Kirsty Wark about whether you agree with the ring-fencing of the NHS budget. It's another, entirely cowardly and awful, thing to treat your own son in the same way, blithely refusing to accept responsibility or blame for your own actions.

Peter: “We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on Mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You’ve told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?”
Huhne: “I have no intention of sending Mum to Holloway Prison for three months. Dad”

Translation: "I'm totally going to lie but don't have the balls to say so. And I have no intention to admitting anything to you, let alone the courts, and intend to accept no responsibility whatsoever, either to you or the courts. However, if your mum sadly is convicted and sent to Holloway because of my actions, I will consider this not my fault but hers, and proof that I can get away with it and she can't. And anyway, three months isn't that bad, so I don't know what your mum's moaning about."

Peter: “Are you going to accept your responsibility or do I have to contact the police and tell them what you told me?”
Huhne: “Discuss it with Mum”

Trans: "I am admitting nothing to you in case it comes back to bite me in the arse in court, because frankly my political career and its survival is more important to me than being honest with my own children. Also: please do not contact the police."

Peter: “It’s not about her its about your accepting your responsibility to me”
Huhne: “Happy to talk about it with you. Dad”

Trans: "I have no responsibility to you. This interview is over. *rips lapel mic from tie, rises from chair, walks out of studio.*"

What a shitbag.
posted by Len at 9:18 PM on March 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, I pulled the texts incorrectly. (That's way they were numbered in the legal document.) That makes more sense, and is just awful.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:31 PM on March 11, 2013


Something similar:
Here
posted by johnny7 at 10:57 PM on March 11, 2013


Len - I'm pretty sure that by this point Huhne is aware that his wife is trying to entrap him, and that texts to his son could firm part of the evidence.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:59 PM on March 11, 2013


MuffinMan: I'm pretty sure that by this point Huhne is aware that his wife is trying to entrap him, and that texts to his son could firm part of the evidence.

Well, yeah. That's kind of my point. I mean, if you're not willing to make amends to your son because it might have further repercussions for you in other areas, then, well ... you're not really willing to make amends, full stop. The only conclusion to draw from that is that Huhne considered his career and the prospect of avoiding a few months in chokey more important than his relationship with his own child.

And he might have avoided ruining his father/son relationship if he'd pled guilty in the first place (instead of just as the trial was beginning) and thus avoided any situation in which conversations between them could have been used against him subsequently.
posted by Len at 1:10 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


MuffinMan,entrapment refers to getting someone to commit a crime they would otherwise not commit. Pryce was trying for a confession from Huhne.
posted by biffa at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2013


Yes, that, biffa.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:40 AM on March 12, 2013


It is interesting, sometimes, to peer behind the curtain and see just how unpleasant, mendacious and very human the hard-working, intelligent and ambitious upper-middle class of business and politics can be. I only hope my life never turns into such a morass of spite! :(

It wasn't very helpful of the judge to reply that 'a reasonable doubt is a doubt that is reasonable'.

"Reasonableness" in English law is a bit of a black box, especially when it comes to jury trials. English lawyers, legal scholars and judges are very resistant to the idea that it can or should be unpacked or defined in too much detail. On occasion, there is a little guidance as to whether reasonableness is a subjective or objective test (i.e. should something be objectively reasonable? or should the defendant just have honestly believed that it was reasonable?). Sometimes reasonableness is expressed as foreseeability, i.e. could someone have foreseen that Y would follow X. But as a general rule, in my experience, judges go to great lengths to be obtuse and avoid the question of what "reasonableness" means, because that is what the jury is effectively determining. I honestly do not know whether this is a good or bad system: as with so many things about the Common Law, it is what it is.
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:33 AM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]




Holy crackers, the neighbor who lied to the police (allegedly) is a judge? The first black female judge in the UK!
posted by bq at 8:19 PM on March 16, 2013


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