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:
: 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).
: 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).
: Political Editor at the Sunday Times; 3rd cousin of Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott
: barrister, and one of England's earliest black female judges; Clapham neighbour of Vicky Pryce.
: former journalist and Liberal Democrat press aide, Director of the Electoral Reform Society; Chris Huhne's lover (2008?-).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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."